Thursday, July 31, 2008

I don't now, but I used to.

I used to watch a decent amount of TV. I'd get up in the morning and watch CNN while eating breakfast, come home and catch the news, and maybe grab an episode of "The Simpsons" with Don. Now I can honestly say I watch maybe a half hour to an hour of TV of week. I don't watch a lot of TV now, but I used to.

But that got me thinking: what do I do with my time now?

I only have to look at the hand prints on my iBook to know what I do. I'm on the computer constantly, either writing blog posts like this one, or that one, or researching trips and trip ideas, or doing tons and tons of reading, or I'm actually inside the computer trying out DIY projects and living to tell about them.

And I'm not alone. People are watching less TV these days, and finding far more productive uses of their time. Just like me.

In fact, I feel like I'm busier nowadays than I ever was when I was in tons of organizations and zooming off to meeting every night and spending a ton of weekends in Adrian. Now, I look back on that time and wonder, "How the heck did I manage?" I guess I managed by spending my time differently. It's no better or worse than before.

Now, though, I actually look down on people who watch a ton of TV. "Jesus," I catch myself thinking, "don't they have anything better to do?" It's not very fair. Television can have its redeeming qualities. But to me, the real world happens outside of that glowing box. Maybe I've said this before?

The change began, I think, when I first discovered MySpace in the spring of 2005. It became my cognitive heat sink. I read the vast amount of blog posts from back when I first discovered MySpace and - again - I wonder where I had all that free time. My political and social and personal thinking was all there, out for everyone to see, and now I'm lucky to post something new to MySpace once a week. I don't post to MySpace so much these days, but I used to.

Part of it is that, while I'm not involved in so many things as a whole, I'm deeply involved in the organizations I participate in. It seems my to-do list for my recycling group is never ending. But what could be a better cause? My political and environmental passions both get stoked, and I'm doing what I love. Same with Rotary.

So all that time I spend watching TV - wasted time, when you get down to it - I'm busy doing something else. Not to say that watching TV is a bad thing. I still adore my "The Office" episodes, and football on Saturday, and watching "Wheel of Fortune" with grandma. But the news? I listen to NPR religiously on the way to and from work. Or I read it online. And trust me: I'm reading or listening to the smarter news these days.

After that, I'm busy taking walks or going for a bike ride or undertaking whatever "wouldn't it be fun if..." project that shapes and grows my brain a little bit. It's been a blast. What's more, you'll never hear me utter the words, "I'm bored." Never.

Because I'm never bored these days. But I used to be.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

On biking to work.

Tomorrow I'm riding my bike to work.

It's nothing compared to the Falling Water Trail, of course, but shit, why not? It's supposed to be pretty nice out tomorrow, and I'm dressing down at work for a project.

My route is barely 3 miles long, and most of it is downhill (it's uphill on the way home). And it shaves about .7 miles off my usual driving route. According to Google Maps new "walking" time option, if I hoofed it on foot it would take about an hour. A bike? Hard telling. But my guess is about 15-20 minutes - just a tad longer than driving.

My car doesn't suck down that much gas driving to and from work, but every little bit helps, right? And why sit inside any structure during the summer when Michigan winters are long and life-threatening? There's sunshine, there's fresh air, there's exercise - its waiting to be enjoyed.

Plus my new bike hasn't gotten the workout I had hoped. It took me down the Rose Parade route, and down the Falling Water Trail a few times, but that's about it. The machine needs to work to be an efficient work-saver. So I'm putting it to work.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The week in iPhone pictures.

One of the reasons I was so excited to get an iPhone was the camera: most cell phone cameras strike me as pretty shitty, but even at only 2 megapixels, my 3G camera doesn't do too bad a job. I've had it for a week now. Let's see how it's going.


Wah-wah. Keith and I, a day after the madness, stopped by the Ann Arbor Apple Store to shop for phone cases. The folks at the store said they sold out that morning. Lucky me!


On our way to Detroit, Keith and I stopped by a giant used book store downtown so he could grab a book for his doctoral research. Inside, I found the complete editorials


We found Driver, in town from D.C., by the statues at Comerica Park. The Tigers lost by a run, but we had tons of fun with Driver's crew from Deadspin. Those bloggers are funny folk.

Grilling out

Tuesday, Carolyn hosted a grill out at her house - complete with horseshoes, watermelon, and plenty of burgers and dogs.

Grandma in the garden

Grandma in the garden. The beetles were after her roses again. Everything has been in full bloom this year, she says - more than any year before.


Thursday I took a Macintosh IIci over to Curtis's to see if we could get it working again. We did, but not before I played a little Galaxian on his Apple IIe (left).


Downtown Jackson on a hot-ass Friday afternoon. We were setting up for our Teen Idol event, which takes place at the wonderful Riverwalk Amphitheater by the Consumers Energy HQ. Nothing is alive in this section of the Grand River, but it makes for a nice scene.


This morning I hopped into my car to find this little guy (or girl) sitting on my windshield. My grandma thinks it's a little baby hawk. It was fat, that's all I know, I didn't fly away until right before I drove off.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Helping out via the Intertubes.

This morning I donated $5 to a guy running for Kansas state representative, Sean Tevis, because he's a funny guy.

When you get right down to it, people come up with far lamer excuses for voting for politicians. I think there's something to be said for humor in politics - especially from someone who gets Internet memes, cultural references, and the absurdity of it all. Tevis's comic was pure fun, and in it he asks for a few thousand people to donate $8 to his campaign to beat some Intelligent-Design-spouting yahoo. Hey, sign me up.

Why donate to some guy I don't even know out in Kansas?

I donated for the same reason I'd give some mixed-race Hawaiian I've never met $5 to run for president: he speaks my language. And he could use the help.

All politics may be local, but Tevis strikes me as a guy I could have a beer with. Or sit down and talk Macs with. He seems like a guy who represents - finally! - a break from guys who think the Internet is actually a series of tubes.

Tevis won't be the last. Every week, I plan to give $5 to some politician, either local or otherwise, who Speaks My Language. There's a state senator here in Michigan who wants to take on Tim Walberg, our state rep in Congress. He's a good guy, a hard worker, and he's pretty smart. So he gets $5.

And on it will go, for the rest of the political season. And if I can't find someone worthy one week, well, some cash-strapped charity or organization will get it. Groups are hurting out there, after all, and while $5 does seem like a lot, (a) I can afford $5 a week, (b) it can buy some stamps for a mailing, (c) it beats the hell out of getting nothing at all.

What's nice about the Intertubes is I can send my money where it's needed most instantly. I gave Tevis his $5 via PayPal, which made it really convenient.

This will also force me to do some research and get to know the issues this year. Before I give anyone their $5, they'll have to reach me. And to reach me, I need to do some reading first.

So $5 a week. No big deal, right? Well for guys like Tevis, a few thousand $5 donations can make the difference between kicking the old-school bums out and suffering from more cranky men who Don't Give A Shit.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Waterboarding as a weekend activity.

Christopher Hitchens in this article from Vanity Fair:
As a boy reading the climactic torture scene of 1984, where what is in Room 101 is the worst thing in the world, I realize that somewhere in my version of that hideous chamber comes the moment when the wave washes over me. Not that that makes me special: I don’t know anyone who likes the idea of drowning. As mammals we may have originated in the ocean, but water has many ways of reminding us that when we are in it we are out of our element. In brief, when it comes to breathing, give me good old air every time.
Every one of you needs to stop what you're doing right now and watch the video of Hitchens getting waterboarded. It's what our government claims isn't torture, and it's what makes me respect guys like McCain for denouncing it (though he's backed off that quite a bit lately).

Of all the things I hate about the current administration, this is number one. Period. Anytime scenes from 1984 become reality are scary times, indeed.

Notice how quickly Hitchens gives up, and you can imagine what the full 15 minutes would've been like.

Here's hoping we can knock this bullshit off, whoever takes over next January, and get our fucking head on straight.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

July 11: I'll be there

It's official. I took the day off work. I have a fraternity bro who might be joining me.

I'll be there.

Come July 11, I'll be one of the fools in line at the Ann Arbor Apple Store waiting for an iPhone.

Let me preface that, friends, by saying we live in a humorless time, one fraught with terrible blunders and a creeping National Depression that threatens our very dignity. Where, oh where, can we find a ray of sunshine in these dark times?

Where we can get it - that's what I say.

And it's going to be a hoot. Last year the lines were long in spots, but not as dramatic as everyone thought, and people found ways to pass the time. This year could be different.

The news I've been reading says things may be crazy. The scripts are ready. The lines are forming. And the hour is pretty well known.

If that doesn't make for an exciting adventure (and only 40 minutes away from my front door), what can? What hope do we have?

The whole weekend is turning into a bash of epic proportions. The Return of Driver, a standing-only ticket to the Tigers game, and perhaps even a trip to Toledo with Keith. That, coupled with this weekend's big trip out west to Portland and Parts Unknown, makes for a hectic July.

There's always the possibility that the Ann Arbor Apple store will sell out before I grab one. But then the possibility of getting mugged by some meth-addled junkie outside on State St. is present, too. The only thing that scares me about this entire deal is AT&T and their goddamn rate plan. It means I'll have to pay a bit more each month (about $15) just to use the Jesus Phone. That's the price of progress.

All in all, I'm still grateful I waited a year. I miss the previous iPhone's aluminum backing, but otherwise the 3G iPhone is a better deal. Come July 12, the day after the release, I will finally be able to say I Was There, and I lived to tell the tale.