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December 31, 2006

Henry Ford

Yesterday, my mom, my aunt, David, and I finally made it to the Henry Ford Museum. My mom had never been and David, Lesley, and I hadn't been in years, so we had a lot of fun browsing the exhibits. We all agreed that the best part was the Dymaxion House, a relatively new (2004-ish) exhibit of the house of the future invented by Buckminster Fuller. Designed in 1946, the Dymaxion House would have solved the nation's postwar housing crisis by providing cheap, easy to assemble, mass-produced homes made of the newest materials: aluminum and plastic. The Dymaxion House was ahead of its time because it was designed to minimize use of energy and natural resources. Unfortunately, back in 1946, we thought energy would always be cheap and our natural resources would never be depleted, so Fuller couldn't get the investment backing he needed to put the Dymaxion House in production. Only one was ever made, and it now sits at the Henry Ford Museum.

There was another new permanent exhibit called With Liberty and Justice For All that documents the American Revolution, the abolition of slavery, the women's rights movement, and the civil rights movement. The exhibit seems to have been built to provide a home for the chair in which Abe Lincoln was shot and for the bus where Rosa Parks took her famous stand (or sit, actually) against Jim Crow, both of which had previously been stand-alone attractions. Nevertheless, the exhibit formed a coherent narrative tied together by a timeline of the forward and backward march of libery and justice in the United States, ending with the USA Patriot Act, which is described as a giant step backward.

On previous visits to the Henry Ford, the museum seemed way too big to see everything, but on this visit I think we pretty much did see everything. We skipped Tasha Tudor's Christmas exhibit and didn't go down the clockwork, jewelry, and pewter hallways, but I think we saw everything else: cars, trains, planes, diners, household appliances, and -- yes it's still there -- Thomas Edison's last breath.

Posted by eklanche at 08:32 AM | Comments (0)

December 30, 2006

Knitting Up A Storm

Lately I have become quite obsessed with knitting. My grandmother taught me to knit when I was about eight and I have done it on and off since then, but lately I have been constantly on. To be perfectly honest, I have pretty much been knitting nonstop for the past year, but my output has seriously increased over the past month or so, in which I have made several boas, a poncho, a shawl, two scarves, two drawstring pouches, and a mitten. As far as habits go, knitting is not a bad one at all -- I can knit while watching television, talking on the phone, hanging out with friends and family, or sitting in a bar or cafe. And the great joy is that, at the end of the day, I have something to wear or give away. The tip-off that I may be doing too much of it, however, came the other night, when I woke up in the middle of the night with sore elbows!

The other drawback to knitting is that it is a rather expensive hobby. Without exception, it is always cheaper to buy a knit item than to buy the yarn to make the same item. I have, however, found a few ways to get around the prohibitive expense of this hobby:
1. Knit items to give to KnitWits -- they supply the yarn.
2. Make friends with ex-knitters who want to get rid of their stashes. My friend Laura recently had to give up knitting because it was giving her headaches, and I inherited all her yarn. I made a poncho for her to thank her for the yarn, but still have several skeins left.
3. Use cotton yarn (good for washclothes and dishtowels).
4. Use acrylic yarn (not recommended).
5. Buy yarn on sale.
6. Go yarn shopping with my mom. She is also a knitter, so she understands the yarn obsession.

With my mom in town this week, number six has been the happiest solution. I used to buy most of my yarn at Busy Hands on Main Street. It was the only yarn store in walking distance, and I was partial to Busy Hands because I used to live in a super-cool loft right above it. But they have a very small selection. A couple of weeks ago I went to Knit A Round for the first time because they are the only Ann Arbor purveyor of Knit Klips (I hate that kind of fake alliteration). I haven't actually used the clips yet, but I thought they would come in handy at some point, and I wanted to check out another yarn store. Knit A Round has a much better selection than Busy Hands, but the people who work there aren't terribly nice. I brought my mom there last week to look for yarn for a sweater she wanted to make, and the woman she asked for help told her to ask someone else!

My mom didn't find quite what she was looking for at Knit A Round, so David and I took her to the ultimate yarn store: Thread Bear in Lansing. I had only been there once before, as it is an hour's drive from here, but the drive is well worth it. As soon as she walked in, my mom remarked that the store is heaven for knitters. In addition to having every yarn ever made, the store is well-staffed with knowledgeable and friendly employees. They offer free coffee and plenty of couches and tables for people to just sit around and work on their projects. I could easily spend an entire day in there, and we almost did. My mom found the yarn for her sweater, and I got some knitten and sock yarn. David entertained himself by playing with the store's two resident dogs.

We were going to go to the Henry Ford Museum yesterday, but after going to Thread Bear on Thursday, all my mom and I wanted to do was sit around and knit!

Posted by eklanche at 08:48 AM | Comments (0)

December 29, 2006

From the Heart

Last night we all went to the University of Michigan basketball game. "All" being me and David, David's brother, my mom, and my aunt and uncle. Most of us were just there to watch; David and his brother were there to work. They were filling in for our friend Shawn, who volunteers with an organization called From the Heart, which links up sick kids and athletes. They bring U of M athletes to Mott Children's Hospital and take kids from the hospital, along with their families, to U of M sporting events. At least once a week, Shawn brings several families to basketball, football, and hockey games (depending on the season), and introduces them to the players after the game. This week, however, Shawn is in Austria, so she asked David if he could fill in for her. It was supposed to be a pretty light game: there would be two families, and David would just have to greet them when they arrived at the game, help them find their seats, buy hot dogs for them, and then get them into the "tunnel" after the game to get the players' autographs. David enlisted Mike's help, and it seemed like they were set. But then the event kept growing, both in scale and intensity. By the time they got to the game last night, there were four families, all sitting in different places around the arena, and they didn't just want hot dogs: they also wanted nachos, drinks, etc. After the game, they not only had to get all of the players' autographs, but they also had to photograph each player with each family, in addition to taking pictures of the families with the cheerleaders in the middle of the basketball court. And somehow, by the time we got to this point, the four families had morphed into five. So they recruited me as the photographer. I got to use a beautiful camera that belongs to the foundation, and it ended up not being as difficult as we expected: the players were gracious about signing autographs, and the families were just so happy to be meeting them that they posed for all the shots I wanted to take. Afterwards, we had a chance to chat with the families a bit, and they were all super-nice. It felt good to be able to bring some joy into the families of children with chronic or terminal illnesses. Mike enjoyed it so much that he was ready to do it again on Saturday!

Posted by eklanche at 09:00 AM | Comments (0)

December 28, 2006

A Bad Omen?

Our house had a beautiful old medicine cabinet made of wood with a beautiful antique mirror on the front. It was large and solid, but unfortunately, some previous owner had painted it white. When we bought the house, David took the door off so that he could strip off the paint and refinish the wood. That was July 2004, and he never quite finished the project. For the past two and a half years, the medicine cabinet has been standing open, half stripped, with the mirrored door sitting on the floor. Every time we needed a mirror -- whether to shave, floss teeth, put in earrings, comb hair, or whatever -- we had to lift up the mirrored door and rest it precariously on top of the towel bar. It worked fine until we got new fluffier towels for Christmas. This morning I put the mirror on top of the towels and it promptly fell down, shattering into about a million pieces. The wood also broke apart. There was no way to salvage it, so I put the big pieces in a trash bag and vacuumed up the little glass shards. It was so sad to lose that medicine cabinet door after so long, though, in reality, David and I both knew it would happen eventually. So after having a half-unrefinished antique medicine cabinet for the past two and a half years, we are just going to have to buy a whole new one. And breaking a mirror is supposed to bring seven years of bad luck. This occurrence doesn't seem to bode well for our marriage...

Posted by eklanche at 08:35 AM | Comments (0)

December 27, 2006

Complications

David and I have been trying to keep our wedding as simple as possible: a courthouse ceremony attended by ten family members, followed by lunch at a nearby restaurant. No tuxes, no white gowns. We will be using our parents' wedding rings, which are currently in the shop being resized for us. We thought it was all set.

And then the parents swooped in. David's dad began to insist that he had to pay for everybody's lunch, even though all the other parents (including my grandparents) wanted to help out with it too. My aunt called to try to convince me to register for gifts. My mom and aunt asked if they could bring champagne and wedding cake to the restaurant, even though David and I don't drink and I don't eat sugar. And we are going to be at a restaurant -- people can order drinks and dessert if they want them! My mom flew in last night and she and my aunt informed me that we have to go to the florist today to order flowers for the "bridal party." My response: "what bridal party" -- we don't have bridesmaids or groomsmen because we are getting married at the courthouse with ten family members!

I probably sound like the world's biggest ingrate right now. After all, David and I are blessed with families who are excited about our wedding and want to help us out however they can. And I am truly grateful for their help and support. We discussed eloping, but I wanted our families involved because I wanted to feel as though we had their blessing to enter this phase of our relationship. I'm overjoyed that so many people are going to be able to come to the courthouse with us, and I'm glad for all the help we are getting: David's dad with the lunch and my mom and aunt with the flowers. My cousin is designing the announcements and I'm thrilled to have such talented family members who are willing to share their skills. At the same time, however, I think weddings are one of those "less is more" occasions: the fewer people, the more we can interact with each one; the fewer details to worry about, the more relaxed we will be about the whole thing; the less we focus on the wedding, the more attention we can give to the marriage itself.

Posted by eklanche at 09:26 AM | Comments (1)

December 26, 2006

Christmas

Yesterday was the second day that I didn't post since starting this blog in June. The first day was September 16, the day of the UM/Notre Dame football game. I didn't have a good reason for not blogging that day; I just never got around to it. Yesterday I simply didn't have an opportunity: it was one of those rare days with no computer contact. David and I had spent Sunday night at his mom's house, where we stayed until about three-thirty yesterday afternoon, we then drove to his dad's for the rest of the day, and got home around eleven-thirty, which is well past my bedtime!

Yesterday was my first Christmas with the M--- family since 2002, and let's just say that Christmas 2002 didn't go so well, which is why I spent the next three Christmases at the movies with my mom in Los Angeles. Things went much better this year, though I think part of it is just that I now feel like a part of the M--- family, which makes me much more tolerant of their idiosyncracies. But really, we had a wonderful time.

On Sunday night I stayed up late playing dominoes with David's mom, stepfather, and brother (I almost won, but then Mike pulled ahead), and on Monday morning I got up early and spent a few hours drinking coffee and listening to David's mom's memories of his childhood. It is amazing that, even after five years, there are things I don't know about him. For example, he never told me that he won a writing contest in college and had a story published!

David's mom just loves having a Jewish daughter-in-law. She wraps my Christmas presents in Hanukkah paper and puts dreidels in my stocking! It's really cute and I like the fact that -- in her own way -- she can include me in her family's Christmas celebration while being sensitive to the fact that it's not my holiday.

After opening presents at David's mom's, we went to his dad's and opened more presents. Christmas is the one day of the year that his dad builds a fire in the fireplace, but it wasn't that cold out (global warming?), so we had quite a toasty evening. Christmas is also the one night of the year that David's dad uses his charcoal grill. He uses the gas grill just about every night because grilling is the only form of cooking he does, but we all prefer the taste of charcoal. Also, because it was a special meal, David wanted to have asparagus (the official favorite vegetable of the M--- family) along with our steak. December, however, is just not a good time to buy asparagus in Michigan, and he went to four different markets before finding a bunch that didn't look too pathetic. In any case, we had an excellent meal and I truly enjoyed being a member of the M--- family this year.

Posted by eklanche at 08:46 AM | Comments (0)

December 24, 2006

Mittenfest

Yesterday David and I worked the door at Mittenfest, a benefit concert for 826 Michigan, held at the Corner Brewery in Ypsilanti. Even though we had our backs to the show the whole time, it was still a lot of fun. We got to take people's money, draw mittens on their hands (in lieu of a hand stamp), and sell 826 t-shirts and books. David and I sat at the door from 2-5pm (though the event went until eleven), and had thirty paying guests, which meant $150 for 826.

There were about fifteen bands playing over the course of the day, and band members got an x in the mittens on their hands, which entitled them to free beer at the bar. As they came in, we asked them if they wanted us to mark their hands so they could get free beer, and we only had two refusals: one musician had to go to work after her performance, so she declined, and another musician said he was too young. This shocked us: first, that there were people there under twenty-one, and second that this guy was so honest about it -- we were sure that he wouldn't be carded if he went up to the bar with our mark on his hand. Then we started wondering if we had marked other underage band members, and if we were thus facilitating underage drinking. Should we have been carding people at the door as well?

Posted by eklanche at 08:55 AM | Comments (0)

December 23, 2006

In the Thick of It

I graded twenty-seven papers yesterday and have eight more to go. I thought I had thirty-eight students, but I only received thirty-five final papers. According to my contract, I could have had up to seventy-five students, and right now I'm very grateful that my class was underenrolled. I still can't believe just how little time they give us to grade finals -- seventy-two hours! There is simply no way to give justice to papers in such a short period of time. Unfortunately, however, my students' final papers don't seem to deserve much justice. There are, of course, some excellent ones, but most are just atrocious, and I'm not sure why because previous papers from the same students have been much more thoughtful, engaged, and well-written. I don't know if they were thrown for a loop by the essay questions or if they were simply too busy with other papers and finals to put in a whole lot of effort. What I really wish is that more of them had come to me for help. A few did, and their papers showed the extra effort. Other papers are full of misinformation, devoid of textual evidence, and just poorly written. Many were obviously not even proofread. And when did "dominate" become an adjective?

Posted by eklanche at 08:52 AM | Comments (1)

December 22, 2006

Warming Up

Well, I didn't start grading yesterday. Big surprise, right? But I did finish the book and a scarf I was knitting for David's stepfather, and I watched The 40 Year Old Virgin, so it isn't like I was just sitting around doing nothing!

As I gear up to start reading my students' papers today, I find myself reassured by New Kid's recent post about grading. I tend to give a lot of grades in the B range (okay, I give a lot of As too, but don't tell anyone), and it is reassuring to read that B grades are just the nature of the discipline. I very much appreciated her explanation of how history, though it is chronological, is not cumulative. That explains how I managed to get A and A- grades in my history classes all through college without learning anything about what actually happened!

Posted by eklanche at 07:51 AM | Comments (0)

December 21, 2006

Late

I can't believe that it is almost one pm and all I have done today is talk on the phone, eat breakfast, and check my email. Readers who know me in real life will be shocked to read that I didn't get out of bed until eleven today because I never sleep past seven, even on weekends. I guess that's what happens when you work until midnight.

Last night was my last night on the line at Zingerman's Mail Order, and I'm looking forward to getting back to my usual schedule: bed at ten, up at seven. I did have a good time though, and there was even some excitement. Somehow, a fifteen-thousand-dollar corporate order got left until the last minute and, at 6:45 we found out that we had to make twenty-four Tuscan's Treat gift baskets and have them ready to ship by eight. Fortunately, it is an easy basket and we got some extra help in the basket department, so meeting the deadline wasn't a problem. This rush was a much better form of excitement than what we experienced Tuesday night when I dropped a jar of salsa!

My students' final papers are due today at 5pm, so I thought I would have most of the day to recover from my night job before getting started on the grading. However, several students have emailed me their papers, so I could start grading right away. Will I? Perhaps, but first I want to finish the book I'm reading, tie up the ends of a last-minute knitting project, and run to the grocery store. The grading will get done at some point, I'm sure...

Posted by eklanche at 12:54 PM | Comments (0)

December 20, 2006

The Year of Too Many Calendars

A few weeks ago, David and I went to Downtown Home and Garden to get some bulbs to plant in our front yard. While we were there, I spotted the perfect gift for David's brother: a 2007 calendar featuring vintage Michigan football posters. David's brother Mike never went to Michigan, but is a huge Wolverines fan. An entire room of his condo is decorated in Michigan paraphernalia. So I went back to Downtown Home and Garden last week and bought the calendar.

When I told David about it, he replied that it was a funny coincidence, because our friend Shawn had just given him the same calendar. Well, it turns out that this calendar is more popular than I thought. David found out last night that Mike had actually asked their dad, Bill, for a Michigan calendar, and he had bought the same one! When David told him that I had already gotten the calendar for Mike, Bill replied that his was already wrapped and that he wasn't going to return it. Mine is already wrapped too, so I guess Mike is going to have two of the same calendar: one for each bedroom of his condo. I'll just have to make sure to give him mine first!

Posted by eklanche at 10:47 AM | Comments (0)

December 19, 2006

Common Sayings?

On Mondays I tutor at 826 Michigan and the girl I worked with yesterday had a rather bizarre assignment. She was given several sentences that were supposedly common sayings, but written using unfamiliar words rather than in their common form. Her job was to look up the unfamiliar words and then write the saying in its common form. For example, she had been given given "After the feline has left, the rodents will cavort" and was expected to come up with "when the cat is away, the mice will play." This would probably be a great way to teach children new vocabulary, if they had ever heard these sayings. The problem was that this girl had never heard "when the cat is away, the mice will play" or "a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush" or "if you can't beat them, join them." Supposedly common or universal sayings are actually culturally specific. Not being a member of the dominant American culture (whatever that may be), this girl hadn't heard "you can't have your cake and eat it too." In fact, she didn't even know that "angel food" is a type of cake.

It frustrates me to no end when people confuse intelligence with cultural literacy. Having grown up outside of the cultural mainstream as well (being not-a-Christian, having divorced parents, and not living in a house), I entered college feeling out of step and simply behind. I had a lot of catching up to do, not academically, but socially and culturally. I felt this sense of foreignness again in a grad seminar where we read Mr. Bligh's Bad Language. Both the author, Greg Dening, and the professors who taught the class assumed that everyone already knew the story of Captain Bligh and the Mutiny on the Bounty because it was part of "our" culture. British imperialism, however, while it is my area of specialty (and hence, I probably should have known about Captain Bligh) is not part of my culture. I grew up in California, which never was a British colony. What relevance could the Mutiny on the Bounty possibly have to my life? And why should a twelve-year-old Muslim girl be graded according to whether or not she has ever eaten angel food cake?

Posted by eklanche at 07:38 AM | Comments (0)

December 18, 2006

Working on the Line

Last night I worked my first shift at Zingerman's Mail Order. For readers unfamiliar with Zingerman's, it is foodie paradise. Zingerman's began as a local Jewish-style (though not kosher) deli, and has expanded into a gourmet emporium. They still have the original deli location, which sells overpriced sandwiches along with meats, cheeses, oils, vinegars, bagels, and grocery items from all over the world. Next door is a cafe offering coffee, gelato, and pastries. Zingerman's also has a full service restaurant, a creamery, a coffee roastery, a catering branch, a mail order division, and a corporate training unit. During the holidays, Mail Order hires a full-on night crew to deal with the surge in orders, and our friend Shawn has been part of this night crew for the past six years or so. She recruited David in 2003 and it sounded like so much fun that, when he decided to do it again this year, I came along.

We showed up at 3:45 for our "trial shift" and they put us right on the line. The warehouse was much more industrial that I had expected: an assembly line snaked through the bins of products, where one set of workers pulled items off the shelf to put in gift boxes and baskets; then it split into the boxing line and the basket line, where workers packed the boxes and wrapped the baskets; then the assembly line proceeded to the packers, who put the gift boxes and baskets into shipping boxes; and finally to the labelers, who prepared the boxes for mailing.

The production manager assigned me to baskets and David to restocking. I stood at a worktable, where tubs came down the line containing baskets and everything that was to go in the baskets. My job was to pack the baskets decoratively, shrink wrap them, and put them back in the tub and back on the line. Packing the baskets was a bit like playing Tetris: it was sometimes a trick to make everything fit just right. Some of the baskets were easy, like the Made in Michigan, while others were pretty challenging, like the Almost as Good as Grandma's Ultimate. This one is simply a larger version of the regular Almost as Good as Grandma's, which contains a loaf of bread, two brownies, two scones, four cookies, a lollipop, and two small jars of jam. The Ultimate has two loaves of bread, four brownies, four scones, eight cookies, and the lollipop and jams, but it all goes in the same box as the regular version! Packing was fun, though, compared to shrink wrapping, which really was the hardest part. I had always wondered how that stuff worked, and now I know: the shrink bag looks like the plastic wrapping that florists use, but after I taped it around the basket, I "shrunk" it with a heat gun. The trick is to get the wrapping perfectly smooth without burning a hole in it, which happens if you get the gun too close to the wrapping or don't keep it moving. When you get a hole, you have to start all over. It took me an hour to do the first one.

I had a professor in college who used to say that everyone should experience working in a factory, on a farm, and in a restaurant. I can now say that I have worked in a factory, and it has given me a much greater appreciation for the Industrial Revolution. I have never before had a job where I just stood in one place and performed the same task over and over. It felt most industrial, however, on break times. The night shift starts at four pm; at six, the manager yelled "ten minutes" and we all went into the break room for coffee and fruit; at a quarter to eight he yelled "lunch," and again the line stopped while everyone went to the break room for dinner (provided by the management); at 10:05 he yelled "break" and we all had coffee and dessert. Definitely a high class factory, but a factory nonetheless.

While I wouldn't want to do it every day, or as my regular job, I had a lot of fun packing gift baskets. Knowing that I was making somebody's Hanukkah/Christmas gift made me feel like one of Santa's elves.

Posted by eklanche at 11:03 AM | Comments (1)

December 17, 2006

Belly

Last night my friend Sara, aka Nadira, gave a free belly dance performance/workshop at the Crazy Wisdom bookstore. I had seen belly dancing before, at a Middle Eastern nightclub in Los Angeles, but, at the age of sixteen, I was more grossed out by the dancers' bellies than I was impressed by the moves. Today I have a lot more respect for the female body, and could appreciate the enormous control required for hip circles, chest circles, and shoulder shimmies. Nadira and her fellow dancers were quite impressive. One even danced with a sword balanced on her head -- blade down!

After the performance, they gave the audience hip scarves to tie on, and then showed us the moves: arms, shoulders, chest, hips, feet. The larger moves -- hip circles, chest circles, and figure eights -- weren't too difficult, but I couldn't for the life of me do the shimmies or make the bells ring on my hip scarf! Last night's performance/workshop was intended to drum up business for the studio where Nadira teaches, Unveiled Belly Dance, and it worked. I think I'm going to do it. After all, I spent the last year growing a belly, so now I might as well learn how to move it!

Posted by eklanche at 08:33 AM | Comments (0)

December 16, 2006

Going to the Chapel

I guess it would be more accurate to say we're going to the courthouse, but in any case, David and I are getting married. My friend Elizabeth called me out on the cryptic hints I've been dropping over the past few weeks, so I'll come right out with the details. We have set the date for noon on January 3 at the Chelsea Courthouse. It will be a small ceremony -- just family -- but we will have a celebratory bash at our house in May (when the weather is warm enough to party outside). If you are reading this, you are invited, so save the date: Sunday of Memorial Day Weekend!

I applied for the license last Monday and picked it up yesterday. It was a pretty easy process, once I got ahold of our three forms of ID. The application asked for our names, addresses, and birthplaces, along with our parents' names and birthplaces. There were no essay questions, asking why we wanted to get married, how many children we planned to have, or how we would deal with various marital disasters. I did, however, have to read a page from the Michigan Civil Code telling me that it is illegal to marry a relative, that I can't get married if I'm already married, and that people with untreated cases of syphilis or gonorrhea can't get married. Then I had to raise my right hand and swear that, to the best of my knowledge, David and I aren't related, already married, or infected with syphilis or gonorrhea. The woman at the County Clerk's office had me double-check all the information on the form, reminding me that if there are any mistakes, we will need a court order to change them later, and sent me away with a brochure about HIV and STDs. While I think it is fantastic that Washtenaw County is doing its part to help prevent the spread of HIV and STDs, the effort seems a bit mistimed: for most people, getting married is the end of having to worry about these diseases, not the beginning.

When I picked up the license yesterday, the same woman congratulated me, gave me a set of instructions to give to the officiator telling him where to sign (I presume he already knows how to do it, given that he is a judge), and instructions for me on how to change my name. So I guess we are all set. I did become a bit nervous, however, when I read at the bottom of the instruction form that the county of Washtenaw wishes me the best on my marriage. It almost felt like a challenge: "good luck, you'll need it."

Posted by eklanche at 08:21 AM | Comments (1)

December 15, 2006

Happy Hanukkah

Hanukkah begins tonight and David and I are ready: we have sent our cards, set up our menorah, and wrapped our presents. We will celebrate tonight with a quiet family dinner (he is grilling chicken, I'm roasting veggies and boiling potatoes -- latkes are just too labor-intensive), and tomorrow night I hope we will have another couple over to light candles with us. Maybe we'll even play dreidel!

Many of my non-Jewish friends don't quite get Hanukkah. Just the other day, my doctor asked if I was planning to cook the whole Hanukkah dinner myself, as if it were just like Christmas with a big meal and lots of guests. Or maybe she had it confused with Passover. Others ask if I'm going home for Hanukkah. I do enjoy years when I can spend at least part of this eight-night holiday with my mom, but it isn't something one goes home for. I college, I even preferred to have Hanukkah fall before the winter break because then I could spend it with my friends, playing dreidel for M&Ms and frying sufganyot (jelly donuts).

The Jew FAQ website has a great explanation of Hanukkah, as well as a page describing what Jews do on Christmas. I couldn't help laughing when I read this page, because I have done many of the things listed: going out for Chinese food, going to movies, and volunteering. I also enjoy spending Christmas with Christian friends, which I'll be doing this year with David's family, but I'll miss the traditional Jewish Christmas.

Posted by eklanche at 07:38 AM | Comments (1)

December 14, 2006

Bribery

Yesterday was my last day of teaching. I'll still be grading right through the twenty-fourth, mind you, but the classroom component of the semester is over. Because yesterday was the last day of class, I had my students fill out evaluations. As a GSI, evaluations matter. They go into my personnel file and get dragged out every time I apply for a teaching position, either here or elsewhere. And I'm not above bribing my students with food in order to get good evaluations. It's actually a pretty common tactic; many of my professors used to bring food in on the last day of class as well and, as I was walking in yesterday morning, I ran into a fellow GSI who was bringing cookies for her students. I didn't quite stoop that low: it is one thing to bribe them and another thing to get them strung out on sugar, so I brought in clementines. Apparently, however, fruit is not as popular as candy. I brought in two crates of clementines, thinking that everyone would have one and that some people would have two or three, but I ended up with a whole crate left over. Oh well, more for me.

Posted by eklanche at 07:44 AM | Comments (1)

December 13, 2006

Indestructable

I often find claims of indestructability highly overblown. When CDs first became popular, my stepmother explained to me that they were indestructable. According to her, you could smear peanut butter on a CD, wash it off, and then play it, with no ill effects. A decade and a half later, we know that CDs are far from indestructable. They may not melt in a hot car the way that tapes and LPs did, but they break and they scratch.

Nevertheless, I did believe that Pyrex glassware was about as indestructable as something could get. Sure, dropping it was not a good idea, but I bought the claim that Pyrex "products can go directly from refrigerator or freezer to a microwave, convection, or preheated conventional oven," and I often did use them in just that way. But I somehow missed the disclaimer: "a small amount of liquid should be added to the ovenware vessel prior to baking foods that release liquids while cooking." On Monday, I put three red bell peppers into a square Pyrex baking dish and set them in the oven at 500 degrees to roast. Twenty minutes later, I heard a crash. Nobody else was home, so I was quite confused about what had happened until I opened the oven door to investigate. The pan had exploded. Broken glass everywhere. Fortunately, the peppers were still intact, so my lunch wasn't ruined, but I am now down one square baking pan.

Posted by eklanche at 08:19 AM | Comments (0)

December 12, 2006

The Weaker Sex

An Ann Arbor News article reprinted from the New York Times revealed on Sunday that men are actually the weaker sex. Apparently, the male life expectancy is five years shorter than the female life expectancy for white men and over ten years shorter for black men. Men also suffer from higher rates of heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.

The article quotes Dr. Demetrius J. Porche of the Louisiana State University School of Nursing, who states that "we've got men dying at higher rates of just about every disease, and we don't know why," but the author of the article makes the why pretty clear: men don't take care of themselves as well as women do. Graphs in the article show that men have higher rates of smoking, drinking, and obesity. The three diseases -- heart disease, diabetes, and cancer -- are all linked to diet and exercise, and it does seem that men don't do as much cardiovascular exercise as women do and that they consume much less healthy diets. Men tend to eat more meat than women do (as meat has been associated with masculinity ever since hunter-gatherer days), particularly red meat, which has more saturated fat than chicken or fish. Women also eat more fruits and vegetables, which contain antioxidants that protect against cancer. Diabetes is related to obesity, which is much more socially acceptable for men than for women.

The charts also show that women are more likely than men to seek medical attention, to follow doctors' orders, and to take preventative health measures (such as getting a flu shot). Perhaps it is more socially acceptable for women to go to the doctor because we have always been considered the weaker sex, the ones more in need of medical attention. After all, it isn't manly to seek help.

While the article points out that men are more likely to suffer from these diseases than are women, it doesn't delve into the rates of death, aside from noting that "more women die of breast cancer than men do of prostate cancer." I have also heard anecdotally that, while men are more likely to have heart disease, women are more likely to die from it because they are less likely to know that they have it and get it treated. Because more men than women have heart disease, it has long been considered a male disease, even though it is the number-one killer of women. Furthermore, men and women experience heart attacks differently: men feel pain in their left arm while women are more likely to feel it in their back. But it is the male symptoms that get publicized, which means that a woman who is having a heart attack might not even realize it until it is too late. Furthermore, because medical research was, for a long time, carried out only on male subjects, treatments for these diseases may not be as effective for women as they are for men.

All this being said, I will admit that there is still an element of mystery. The article points out that male fetuses are at greater risk of stillbirth and miscarriage, and that male babies suffer higher rates of infant mortality. These deaths obviously can't be explained by lifestyle or socialization. Perhaps women are just stronger. That would explain why men have felt the need to opress us for so long!

Posted by eklanche at 08:25 AM | Comments (0)

December 11, 2006

Merry Christmas, Michigan

Today I received a Christmas card from Governor Jennifer Granholm and her family. Having never received a card from my governor before, I was pretty tickled, despite the fact that Christmas isn't my holiday. It was quite a tasteful card: the whole family sitting in a row, photographed in sepia tones and wearing red mittens (because Michigan is the mitten state). While hubby, children, and dog had one mitten each, Granholm herself had two, and she was holding them up one vertical and the other horizontal above it, just like Michigan's two peninsulas. The message inside says, in red type, "Warm hands...warm hearts...warm wishes this holiday season," and each member of the family signed it, except for the dog, who just gave a pawprint (dogs can't write because they don't have opposible thumbs). You may be wondering why, if it doesn't actually say "merry Christmas," I have referred to it as a Christmas card. It's because of the red. Everyone knows that Michigan should be blue -- for the University of Michigan and for the Democratic Party -- or maybe Green -- for Michigan State -- but definitely not red, which could only possibly stand for Ohio State, or the Republican Party, or Christmas. Nevertheless, receiving this card makes me feel like a true Michiganian.

Posted by eklanche at 07:04 PM | Comments (0)

The Lions Blues

Every now and then, David's dad gets free tickets to Detroit sporting events from people he works with and passes them on to us. We haven't seen the Pistons (they don't play in Detroit, anyway), but we went to a Red Wings game last spring and yesterday we saw the Lions at Ford Field. It was our first NFL game and we had a lot of fun, despite the fact that the Lions played just as poorly as they always do.

The stadium was honestly the best part of the game. Ford Field is a brand-new indoor stadium, built just a few years ago to make Detroit eligible to host the 2006 Super Bowl. It is right downtown, literally built around a nineteenth-century warehouse. When you enter the stadium, it is as if you are walking down the street that was there before the stadium was built. We also had some of the best seats in the house: the "Club" section -- right in the middle of the field, above the plebeian section and right below the luxury boxes. We sat in cushy leather seats, drank and dined in private lounges, and had extra security to keep the rif-raf out of our area. Someone behind us even said that our seats were modeled on the seats in the Ford Escort.

Unlike at Comerica Park, however, spectators can't bring outside food into Ford Field and, since I won't buy stadium food (no, not even the grilled chicken panini offered in the "Club"), this rule presented a challenge. I stashed food in the various pockets of my jacket, hoping that nobody would notice that I was wearing my lunch. Also unlike at Comerica, Lions fans must submit to a pretty thorough body search before even going into the stadium. There were separate lines for men and women -- or rather long lines for men and no wait at all for women -- so I got through the search pretty quickly. I unzipped my jacket, so they patted me down inside my jacket and didnt' touch the jacket itself, allowing me to easily smuggle in the food. The only thing I had to ditch was my unopened bottle of water.

As for the game itself, well, that was pretty sad. Today's Ann Arbor News refers to the Lions as "consistently bad." Yesterday I called them "reliably disappointing." David pointed out to me that our best player was our kicker so, when we were down by ten, I noted that we only needed four field goals to win. At that point, the Lions drove down the field and looked like they were going to make a touchdown. First down and goal to go on the one yard line. Pretty soon it was fourth and goal. David joked that we should try for a field goal, and it turned out he was right. We missed the fourth try as well. My favorite part of watching football is figuring out all the possible permutations of scoring that we could get in order to win. A touchdown seemed out of the question at that point but, when the ball turned over just outside of the Vikings' endzone, I announced that we could, in theory, get a safety, and then we would only need three field goals. A kid somewhere near me had the same idealistic notion, but David scoffed at our nievete. "In theory," he said, we could get a safety. By that point there were only a few minutes left in the fourth quarter and most of the stadium had emptied out. By the end of the game, it seemed that we were the only ones there besides the Vikings fans and the super-hard-core Lions supporters. The staff at Ford Field, however, were still very pleasant, thanking us for coming and wishing us a nice day. From what we hear, the Lions are a great organization to work for if you don't care about winning.

Posted by eklanche at 07:45 AM | Comments (0)

December 10, 2006

That New Furniture Smell

For several months now, David and I have been looking for a piece of furniture to hold our television. Before I moved in with him, David kept it in the bedroom because he was adamantly against having a television in the living room. He loved having people come over and wonder if he even had a tv at all. But I refused to keep it in the bedroom because I had heard that a television in the bedroom is bad for a relationship. So we moved it into my study, which worked for a few years, but I finally got sick of having to sit in my not-terribly-comfortable desk chair in order to watch it.

In the study, the television sat on a set of plank-and-cinder-block shelves that David had put together, which worked just fine. We did, however, eventually move the television down to the living room, cinder blocks and all, and it didn't work as well down there because there wasn't enough space for the stereo equipment along with the tv and DVD player. So for several months, the stereo receiver sat on the floor under the makeshift shelving unit collecting dust while we tried to find a real piece of furniture to hold it.

Until IKEA opened this fall, there really weren't any good furniture stores around. Previously, we have bought furniture from Room and Board in Chicago and from the Home Decorators' Catalog, but neither seemed to have what we were looking for. We shopped and shopped, and didn't find anything. When IKEA opened, it seemed that our prayers had been answered. When I was growing up, all of our furniture came from IKEA or from Plummers, the LA area's flat-packed, assemble-it-yourself furniture store before IKEA, and I have many fond memories of building furniture with my mom. I was sure David and I would find something there, but it still took four trips before we hit on just the right piece. Yes, we are that picky. There is also the fact that we just have a small house, and most furniture today seems to be built to the scale of a McMansion.

David finally hit on the perfect tv storage unit last weekend. We returned together Friday night to buy it (we got the last one in dark brown!), and David put it together yesterday. It took him about seven hours, but it looks great. And our living room is full of that awesome new furniture smell.

Posted by eklanche at 08:28 AM | Comments (0)

December 09, 2006

The Vegetable Conundrum

My only complaint about Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma, which I blogged about last week, is that Pollan focuses on meat and animal proteins, discussing grains and vegetables only in passing. Granted, he does devote the first third of his book to corn, but he discusses corn as an animal feed and as a raw material for the food industry, rather than as a grain or as a vegetable (which it isn't, anyway). Protein is important, but our bodies also need carbohydrates and a number of micronutrients, which only come from grains and produce.

Pollan does spend quite a bit of time on Earthbound Farm (the inventors of salad-in-a-bag) in his "Big Organic" chapter, but he doesn't explore any alternatives to industrial organic when it comes to fruits and vegetables. So what are the problems with the organic produce available at Whole Foods? To begin with, the label "organic" doesn't mean much anymore. It used to signify food that was grown naturally and sustainably, but the official standards in place today only prohibit chemical fertilizers and pesticides. They say nothing about the sustainability of either the growing methods, which involve monocultures that drain the soil and factory farms that require diesel power to harvest, or the methods of distribution, which waste huge amounts of energy moving produce from the factory farms in California or South America to local stores, especially when that produce must be refrigerated en route.

Pollan says many times how ridiculous it is for us to expect to be able to eat tomatoes or asparagus in January, but doesn't spend much time on the alternatives. He implies that it is always better to buy from local farmers at farmers' markets, but never addresses the fact that most of these markets dry up during the winter. Perhaps this oversight is a result of the fact that Pollan lives in Northern California, where he can find a healthy variety of local produce all year at the farmers' markets. But what about the rest of us? Should we give up vegetables? If we are unwilling to do that, what is better -- shipped in fresh, canned, or frozen?

Having had my consciousness raised by Pollen last week, I went to the People's Food Co-op on Thursday curious about where exactly my veggies were coming from. The only local vegetable available was turnips, so I bought several pounds. Disappointed with the selection, I went to the farmers' market this morning, hoping to find beets and carrots. No such luck, but I did find cauliflower, brussels sprouts, potatoes, onions, and tomatoes. Those were quite a surprise, and they will probably taste like cardboard, but I bought them anyway. Who knew you could grow a tomato in Michigan in December? Unfortunately, however, the guy with the tomatoes, potatoes, and onions told me it was his last week for the season. As the fall turns into winter, the vegetable sellers at the farmers' market rapidly give way to the decorative greenery, the pastries, and the preserves. Even apples are becoming fewer and farther between.

Posted by eklanche at 01:52 PM | Comments (2)

December 08, 2006

Who Owns the Curb?

When I arrived home on Wednesday at 4pm, I noticed that something was different on my street. Usually at this time of day, our block is parked up end to end, but that day the east side was curiously empty. And then I saw the signs: "2 Hour Parking -- Residential Permit Exempt." These signs apply to the east side of the street on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and to the west side on Tuesday and Thursday.

I knew something evil like this was in the works because at one point last summer a neighbor came by asking me to sign the petition. I refused on principal -- the curb belongs to the city and anyone who lives or works in the city should have equal access to it -- but he came back when David was home to ask him to sign it and got an earful. David and I feel that the free parking on our street subsizides the downtown businesses we patronize. Free parking on our street helps keep costs down for local businesses whose employees park there, and in turn lowers our cost of living, allowing us to live downtown, where we can walk to work. As we like to say, "others park so that we may walk." We really don't care who parks on our street, as long as they don't abandon cars in front of our house (you would be surprised at how frequently this happens) and as long as their cars aren't leaking oil (yes, we have seen this too).

We were surprised, however, that the signs had simply gone up without anyone notifying us or even giving us a chance to buy a residential parking permit. I guess the city was just a little bit behind on this, because yesterday we finally got a letter saying "Congratulations! City Council has approved [that your block] be added to the existing Spring-Brooks-Summit Residential Parking Permit District." Oh boy! This entitles me to pay $40 a year to park in front of my own house and another $40 if I want to get a permit for a guest to park here. There are a few bizarre quirks to the program. First, even though I will never need to park on the street because I have a driveway, I can't get a guest permit unless I first buy a permit for my own car. Second, a resident has to own a car in order to buy a permit. This means that if I didn't have a car, but did occasionally rent or borrow one, and if I didn't have a driveway and needed to park the rented/borrowed car on the street, I wouldn't be able to get a permit for it, despite owning a house on the block.

David pointed out a few other anomalies -- according to Ann Arbor city code, Residential Parking Permit Districts are supposed to be at least sixteen contiguous blocks. Our block is not contiguous with the district we are supposedly a part of, which itself is fewer than sixteen blocks. What's up with that? For more about residential parking, see the discussion of this issue at Arbor Update.

Posted by eklanche at 07:53 AM | Comments (2)

December 07, 2006

A New Game

On the recommendation of both my father and David's Uncle Bob, David and I have been Netflixing the HBO series Deadwood. David likes it better than I do so far, but he is critical of the show's language. A lot of expletives get thrown around on Deadwood, which doesn't bother David in and of itself. Rather, he is concerned about the overuse of one word in particular, an adjective referring to male genitalia that all of the characters constantly use to describe all of the other characters. To David, this seems unrealistic. Perhaps it would be fine if it was just one character who used this adjective, but they all seem to use it way too much. As we watched last night, David proposed a drinking game: each time we heard this word, we lifted our glasses and took a slug. Fortunately, we were both drinking water -- otherwise we would have been under the table before the end of the first episode!

Posted by eklanche at 08:23 AM | Comments (1)

December 06, 2006

Three Forms of ID

As David and I move forward on our wedding plans, the whole process seems pretty cheap and easy: apply for the licence at least three days in advance, no bloodwork, a $20 fee for the license and another $10 for the ceremony. The problem, however, is that we each need to show three forms of ID: driver's license, Social Security card, and birth certificate. We found last night that David doesn't have a copy of his birth certificate, and getting one from Riverside County, CA will require getting the request notarized, paying $40, and hoping it gets here by December 27.

Three forms of ID seems pretty gratuitous. And why can't we just show passports instead of birth certificates, given that we needed to show birth certificates in order to get the passports? My theory is that they want to be able to prove that we aren't related. In Michigan, it is illegal to marry one's parent, grandparent, child, grandchild, stepparent, stepchild, aunt, uncle, or cousin. I guess they need the birth certificates to prove that, between the two of us, we have four different parents with four different last names.

Posted by eklanche at 11:16 AM | Comments (0)

December 05, 2006

Getting Kids to Read

On Mondays I tutor at 826 Michigan, a nonprofit organization that offers free afterschool drop-in tutoring for kids 6-18. As a tutor, one of the biggest challenges is to keep the kids focused and working, especially after they have finished their homework. Yesterday there was a boy whose homework involved reading for forty-five minutes, but he didn't bring a book with him and didn't want to do it. The "lab" at 826 is stocked with books for all ages and reading levels (including books to keep the tutors entertained before the students show up), so I set out to help him find something to read.

When I asked him what kinds of books he liked, he replied, "violent books." This was a challenge for me. When I was his age (sixth grade), I preferred to read what I thought of as "girl books" -- books with female protagonists about my own age. Most "girl books" are not violent, however, as most young adult authors consider violence a "boy interest." Nevertheless, I scanned the shelf and, sure enough, found a violent book: Out of War, a compilation of stories from the Children's Movement for Peace in Colombia. I sat down with the boy who didn't want to read and asked him to read it to me. On the first page of the first story, a boy's father was shot to death, and my student was immediately enthralled. He wanted to read.

At first, I was a bit disturbed by his interest in violence, but then I figured that, if it gets him reading, that is what is important. Unfortunately, violence is often part of life, for kids as well as for adults, and it isn't my job to understand why he is so fascinated by it. My job is to get him to want to read.

Posted by eklanche at 08:55 AM | Comments (0)

December 04, 2006

The Omnivorous Life

About two weeks ago, I promised a future post on the ethics of eating meat, based on my reading of Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma. I had just started the book when I made that promise, but over the past two weeks, David and I just gobbled it up (sorry, I couldn't help the obvious pun) -- we even fought over who got to read it when, as we only had one library copy between the two of us. We both finished it yesterday, David around 3am and I around 3pm. I predict it will provide a lot of grist for the blog mill.

The Omnivore's Dilemma explained in great detail what it means to be an omnivore, and how our bodies evolved to require the immense variety of animals, plants, fungi, and minerals we feed it. Over the course of the book, Pollan argues from biology to debunk just about every food fad that has ever come along. Further, he explains why we as Americans are so susceptible to food fads, which goes back to the eponymous dilemma: as omnivores, we can eat just about anything, and thus must learn to distinguish between items that nourish us (edible mushrooms, for example) and those that kill us (poisonous mushrooms). Human cultures have, over long periods of time, evolved complex rules to help us negotiate this dilemma, such as the laws of kashrut and national cuisines. As Americans, however, we lack this carefully evolved cuisine, the age-old traditions of what to eat and how to eat it that keep people in other parts of the world thinner and healthier than we are.

Lacking a time-tested alimentary path, our food habits have gone in two dangerous directions. First, toward capitalist cuisine. Pollan does not actually use this phrase, but he does describe how our diets have come to focus on corn (used in myriad ways, from a starch and vegetable, to feed for our animals, to sweeteners, binders, and fillers, to an ingredient in food packaging), which he argues is the perfect capitalist crop because it cannot reproduce on its own and because the varieties that have been engineered to have the highest yield don't produce their own seeds (which means the farmers need to buy expensive patented seeds each year). Capitalist cuisine privileges foods that are cheap for consumers, profitable for food manufacturers (but not farmers), and disastrous for our health and the health of our planet. The other direction is food fads. Capitalist cuisine clearly makes us fat and sick and, in an effort to combat our expanding waistlines and diminishing lifespans, people are quick to jump on the bandwagon of whatever quack has proposed a supposedly-better way of eating, which usually involves giving up one or more of the three macronutrients: fat, carbohydrates, and animal protein.

I have certainly been susceptible to such fads, going through periods of vegetarianism and even veganism in search of better health and a more humane way of eating (I'm not an animal rightist by any measure, but I was convinced by Frances Moore Lappe's argument in Diet for a Small Planet that meat production uses valuable resources that could more efficiently be used to feed the Earth's human population). Pollan, too, experimented with vegetarianism while researching his book, but ultimately went back to eating meat when he realized that, as omnivores, meat is part of the diet we evolved to eat. Furthermore, animals evolved to be eaten by us. While animal rights activists argue from the position that every individual animal has the right to life, Pollan argues from the evolutionary perspective that animal species fare better when we eat them. For example, an individual chicken would certainly live longer if people didn't eat chickens, but the species chicken would quickly go extinct if we weren't breeding them for food. In other words, it is in animals' best interest (evolutionarily speaking) to serve us with their eggs, milk, and flesh. Human beings also need animal products, though not in the quantities Americans are accustomed to eating them. We have incisor teeth and stomach enzymes that serve no other purpose than to process meat. Eating meat also allows us to obtain energy from plants that we can't eat ourselves: cows are ruminids, which means they have a stomach specially designed to digest grass, which is indigestible to humans. By eating beef, we get the protein and energy the grass soaks up from the sun. Furthermore, when beef is produced in environmentally-sustainable ways, its production actually makes the soil healthier. While humans can survive on an all-plant diet, such a diet would actually be more detrimental to the soil because it would use up soil nutrients without replacing them in the form of manure. There are also parts of this world that can't produce anything other than grass, which would be useless to us without animals to turn that grass into digestible protein. Granted, most of the meat we eat today is produced according to methods that are harmful and unsustainable (I'll describe this at greater length in another post), and this is a serious problem, but that doesn't mean we should throw out the cow along with the factory farm.

Finally, Pollan points out that the development of human brains occurred along with the expansion of our diet: the more different foods a species eats, the larger of a brain it needs. His tongue-in-cheek implication for food faddists is that, the more we restrict our diet, the smaller our brains will become.

Posted by eklanche at 09:04 AM | Comments (1)

December 03, 2006

Consuming for a Cause

I just discovered my new favorite online bookstore, Public Radio Booksource, a non-profit online store that sells books featured on NPR and gives the proceeds to public radio. Also check out the Public Radio Music Source to buy tunes heard on NPR. Now, if only these sites had a wish list function...

Posted by eklanche at 07:40 AM | Comments (0)

December 02, 2006

Thanks, Ann Arbor

In this blog, I usually try to offer a positive view of Ann Arbor, partly to counter the rantings of other disaffected grad students, and partly because I genuinely do like it here. As an erstwhile Angelina, I love living in a town where I can walk anywhere worth going, where I recognize the other people I see on the street during my daily pedestrian commute, and where I actually talk to my neighbors.

Nevertheless, there are some drawbacks to small-town life, such as a police force with nothing better to do than chase down drivers who exceed the speed limit or pass on the right (though where the cops were that day I saw someone parked facing the wrong way in the no-stopping zone in front of the library -- only three blocks from the police station -- is beyhond me).

For a different take on Ann Arbor than the one posted below, here is a guest post from my dad, commenting on his recent visit to our fair town:

Dear City of Ann Arbor,

On Thanksgiving weekend, you cited me--and fined me $120--for passing the speed limit on Main Street as I was returning from a shopping trip at the _______ Mall (Macy's, in particular) to visit my daughter for breakfast. She's a grad student at the U of Michigan, I'm a father who has visited many times, and I'm also a father who has visited often enough to patronize Zingerman's, Macy's, __________, ______________, __________, and _______________ in downtown Ann Arbor as well as the Best Western motel, the Lamp Post Inn, , and most recently the Candlelight Inn. All told, I've probably spend in excess of $2000 on these visits at a conservative estimate, or $3000 on a liberal one. That's not counting Ohio turnpike tolls from the direction of Pennsylvania, dinners out in Ann Arbor, or gasoline fill-ups on any of these trips. I've contributed to the Ann Arbor economy in various ways since my daughter began attending UM in 2001, but certainly this doesn't entitle me to bend or break your speed laws. I am guilty of going 40 mph in a 35 mph zone. This was on the day after Thanksgiving, when shoppers and motorists are out in unprecedented force, unmanageable parking and mall attendance figures, and on this particular date (Nov. 24, 2006), an uncommon number of police cars ready to snag shoppers, visitors, and residents who happened to exceed limit by 5 mph. in their efforts to shop, see relatives and have a holiday.

Thanks, Ann Arbor! Your vigilance has made a visitor feel unwelcome, a shopper feel surveilled, and a father of a UM student feel like he might have argued harder for her to attend Princeton instead. But I do hear the countervailing argument. Suppose _everyone_ went 5 mph. over the speed limit--what then? Good golly. Baghdad would fall and the terrorists would win. Michigan would become a welfare state (support Affirmative Action? gosh!). Ohio would raise speeding tickets on Michigan drivers in revenge for the latest Ohio State game and so double the welfare rolls in Detroit. No end to the consequences. Henry Ford might roll over in his grave: "Hot damn, illegal aliens crossing the border again..."

Relax, Ann Arbor. I'm just from Pennsylvania.

All best wishes!
Jon Klancher
Professor of English
Carnegie Mellon University
Pittsburgh, PA

Posted by eklanche at 07:59 AM | Comments (0)

Midnight Madness

The first Friday in December is a glorious time to live in Ann Arbor. The downtown shops stay open late (and offer discounts!), the trees light up with little white Christmas lights, and bagpipers and carolers roam the streets. Even on a windy and snowy evening, it makes winter just a little more tolerable. David and I don't usually make a point of going out to "do" Midnight Madness, but last night our friends Shawn and Dave invited us to go with them, which made all the difference. We didn't do much serious shopping, though we were all on the lookout for a suitable gift for Shawn's dad, who, according to Shawn, has no interests. We came up short on that one, but Shawn did get a couple of things for some of her other relatives, and I got a box of gorgeous Hanukkah candles for myself. Mostly we just browsed and chatted. I had forgotten how many neat stores there are here in Ann Arbor: Ten Thousand Villages, the Selo/Shevel Gallery, the Acme store, the Ann Arbor Art Center, 16 Hands. Granted, I can't actually afford to buy anything at any of these shops (even with the 20% Midnight Madness discount), but it is still fun to look. We finished the evening huddled around hot apple cider at the Crazy Wisdom Tea Room, listening to a bluegrass band from Grand Rapids and still trying to come up with a gift idea for Shawn's dad!

Posted by eklanche at 07:48 AM | Comments (0)

December 01, 2006

Internet Pirate

I am currently blogging via a neighbor's wireless signal that my computer happened to pick up this morning. It's pretty fun being totally wireless and it is much faster than dial up; I could certainly get used to it. I do feel guilty, however, for pirating somebody else's internet connection.

Posted by eklanche at 07:46 AM | Comments (0)