Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Dan In Real Life

Contrary to those people who think I never like any movies, I just saw one that I really enjoyed. Dan In Real Life is a very good movie about a single dad who meets a woman and the impact that relationship has on his family. A majority of the scenes take place with his extended family at their cottage in Rhode Island. It was very touching, romantic, beautifully filmed and laugh out loud funny. Steve Carell does a terrific job acting, as does the rest of the cast.

One scene in particular stuck with me. The teenage daughter's boyfriend tells the father that love is not a feeling but an ability. I realize it is just a line in a movie but it was thought provoking. I have never thought of love in those terms but it makes sense and gives me great pause. I wonder some days if I have somehow lost that ability because it has been so long since I have been in love.

Anyways, the movie is well worth seeing in the theater. And if you know me at all, you will understand what a powerful endorsement that is.

Monday, October 29, 2007

The Big House

This past weekend my friend Keri and I had the opportunity to tour University of Michigan's football field. It was a very fun experience. We started out in the media room where they bring in new recruits. They showed a presentation on the history of Michigan football and the history of the stadium. Here is some quick trivia: Michigan did not lose a game from 1901-1905 until the very last game of the 1905 season. They lost that game 2-0 to the University of Chicago. The irony is that those 2 points were the first points they gave up all year.

After the presentation we ran down the tunnel onto the field and threw the football around. Keri has a good arm but she needs work holding for kicks as she flinched at the last minute. Of course my field goal kicking needs work itself. Standing on the field brings a new perspective into what the players see each week. It's also neat to think that I was walking on the same field that Anthony Carter, Charles Woodson and Tom Brady all played on.

The tour ended in the Michigan locker room where we tried on some of the players uniforms. It's amazing how tight fitted those jersey's are. Definitely not like my 30 dollar TJ Maxx look alike jersey. Michael Taylor, a former QB for U of M in the late 1980's, gave a moving speech inside the locker room and broke down crying when he spoke of how much Michigan football meant to him.

This season has been a bit rough for us Michigan fans but Sunday reminded me of why I still love Michigan football.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Bobby Jindal: Remember this name

This weekend Louisiana held their gubernatorial primary. They do things differently down there as they vote on a Saturday and have multiple candidates running against each other in the primary and then winnow the field down to the top two if nobody wins over 50 percent. Well this time Bobby Jindal, a Republican congressmen, won with 54 percent avoiding a run off election and becoming the next governor.

Jindal is a 36 year old Indian American who is incredibly bright and articulate. His election makes him the youngest governor in the country and the first minority to be governor of Louisiana since reconstruction. He has extensive expertise in health care as he ran Louisiana's Department of Community Health and later served as Assistant Secretary for the Department of Health and Human Services in Washington DC. Additionally, he has a strong understanding of higher education as a result of his tenure as President of the University of Louisiana System.

Just as impressive as his resume is his ability to win statewide where there are twice as many registered Democrats as Republicans. Granted the Democrat party has taken a beaten in recent years due to how poorly the current Governor responded to the Katrina crisis. Notably, Jindal was able to capitalize on this discontent and create a broad theme of good government to campaign on. This is the exact message that all Republicans should be using instead of the same tired conservative cliches. Instead of ideology, the voters this year want demonstrated competence. Jindal's campaign and background filled that desire.
The following is a great clip from an article in the AP that illustrates this point:

The governor-elect said he is not worried that in a state known for its brash and flashy politicians, he's seen as methodical and wonkish. "If I go down as one of the more boring but effective governors, I'll take that as a great compliment," he said at a news conference earlier Sunday. "Our people don't want to be amused by our politics anymore. We don't want to be entertained."

I guess you could say he is the antithesis of Barack Obama.

Here is my prediction: Jindal will perform very well as Governor. He will be a model for other Republicans across the country. I also suspect that he will be considered a top tier presidential candidate in 2016

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Sanibel Island Photos

The wedding

At the rehearsal dinner

View from our condo

Enjoying the sunset

Dinner with my parents

My grandpa and I match

View from our balcony

Our pool

Back home

I have been in a funk since I returned from vacation. That's why I haven't felt much like writing recently. I have come to realize the problem with vacationing; no matter how relaxing you always have to return to reality. Finally, this weekend I started to get back to normal.

Friday night I had several friends over to play poker. I really enjoy Texas Hold'em but more importantly I enjoy spending times with my friends. It's a good group of people. We stayed up late and laughed at a lot of stupid things like the number of cheeses and how to play octopus. I guess you had to be there. The fact that I won some money made it all the more enjoyable.

Then yesterday I met my nephew David in Grand Rapids for lunch. It was great to see him again after a two month absence. When had a good time eating wings, watching football and playing video games. Afterwards we visited my Dad at the cemetery which was overdue because it had been a while since I had stopped by. David has a strong sense of family which I appreciate. I wish I lived closer so I could see him and his family more often. I offered to let him move to Lansing but he wasn't interested.

Last night I went to my friend Aaron's going away party at Aladdin's restaurant. The food was good and he had a huge crowd. I don't think he realized how many friends he has. It's surprises me, that he and I friends as we are so completely different. He dresses in all black, is a vegetarian and has a socialist view of the world. I have no such view, enjoy meat and like wearing colors but I realized that he and I do have more in common than meets the eye. Both of us have been in dating draught, both want to find deeper purpose in life, both enjoy music (we play together in the church worship band) and we both are restless souls. His restlessness is leading him to Hawaii which is great for him but lousy for those he leaves behind. I am truly going to miss him.

Tonight I get to watch the Steelers on national TV which is the first time I get to see them play without having to go to the bar. Hopefully they cap off a good weekend with a big victory over the Broncos.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007


I am currently sitting in our screened in porch overlooking the gulf of mexico and enjoying the warm weather. I arrived in Sanibel Island Florida, along with most of my extended family to attend my cousin Brie's wedding. The wedding itself was fabulous and Brie looked terrific. They got married right on the beach with steel drums and a guitar playing. They each wrote their own vows and you could tell they were in love. The reception was very fun. It was outside and the weather was perfect.

Contrasting the wedding is the crazy streak that runs through my family. Wow. I had forgotten what it was like to have them all gathered in one place. It's sad that some could not behave themselves even for a weekend or more importantly out of respect for Brie but selfishness reigns supreme. Since I have often been accused of sharing too much information, I'll save my most scathing stories and comments for personal conversations.

Now that the wedding is over, I have been playing golf, kayaking and generally just soaking up the sun before it disappears into the long winter. I find it soothing to simply float in the gulf and watch the seagulls fly overhead and the dolphins swim by. It's a regular tropical paradise and I can see why my cousin decided to get married on the island.

Well that's all from here as I am off to get my free margaritas by the pool. My guess is they hope to entice me into signing up for the timeshare. It's a great place but I don't see it happening. Just wait til they see my bank account; they will probably ask me to repay them for the drinks.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Dream for Darfur

As some of you know I am a part of the Whisper Campaign which is a Lansing based group with the goal of raising awareness of the atrocities occurring in Darfur. This Saturday evening we are joining members of the Save Darfur movement from Jackson and Detroit in a 5K relay converging on the steps of the state capitol. There will be live music, food and keynote speakers. All of this, in an effort to shame China into taking a stance that supports the end of the Government of Sudan's genocidal tactics against the people of Darfur. I encourage those who live nearby to attend this historic event.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Michigan Budget Update

Michigan finally resolved it's budget crisis Monday morning at 4 am. Thus we avoided a government shutdown and took one step toward rebuilding confidence in Michigan's government and economy. After many hours of negotiations and several legislative gaffes, things came to an end by passing two tax increases, cutting spending by more than 400 million and several reforms including changes to the health care and retirement benefits for teachers and public employees.

In the end my boss did vote to raise the income tax from 3.9 percent to 4.35 percent. It was not an easy vote. In fact, without his vote the bill would have failed and the entire budget agreement could have fallen apart. People before and after the vote have asked my boss what he got out of the deal. They are stunned when he tells them that he didn't trade his vote but simply voted for the tax hike because he thought it was the right thing to do. And it certainly wasn't politically expedient because we are now facing a potential recall effort. The reality is that the state has been cutting its budget since 2000 and yet every year the hole gets bigger and bigger. In the past we have cobbled together one time solutions by selling off future money to pay the current bills and this gimmick finally caught up with us. At some point we couldn't continue to do the same thing year after year and expect different results.

A 6 percent sales tax on services also passed but without my boss voting for it. Left off the list is golf, marinas, cable TV, sporting events and movies theaters. Here are all the new services that will be taxed:

(a) Carpet and upholstery cleaning services
(b) Business service center services
(c) Consulting services
(d) Investigation, guard and armored car services
(e) Investment advice services
(f) Janitorial services
(g) Landscaping services
(h) Office administration services
(i) All of the following personal services:
(i) Astrology services.
(ii) Baby shoe bronzing services.
(iii) Bail bonding services.
(iv) Balloon-o-gram services.
(v) Coin-operated blood pressure testing machine services.
(vi) Bondsperson services.
(vii) Check room services.
(viii) Coin-operated personal service machine services.
(ix) Comfort station operation services.
(x) Concierge services.
(xi) Consumer buying services.
(xii) Credit card notification services.
(xiii) Dating services.
(xiv) Discount buying services.
(xv) Social escort services.
(xvi) Fortune-telling services.
(xvii) Genealogical investigation services.
(xviii) House sitting services.
(xix) Social introduction services.
(xx) Coin-operated rental locker services.
(xxi) Numerology services.
(xxii) Palm reading services.
(xxiii) Party planning services.
(xxiv) Pay telephone services.
(xxv) Personal fitness trainer services.
(xxvi) Personal shopping services.
(xxvii) Coin-operated photographic machine services.
(xxviii) Phrenology services.
(xxix) Porter services.
(xxx) Psychic services.
(xxxi) Rest room operation services.
(xxxii) Shoeshine services.
(xxxiii) Singing telegram services.
(xxxiv) Wedding chapel services, but not churches.
(xxxv) Wedding planning services.
(j) Other travel and reservation services
(k) Scenic transportation services
(l) Skiing services
(m) Tour operator services
(n) Warehousing and storage services
(o) Packaging and labeling services
(p) Specialized design services
(q) Transit and ground passenger transport services
(r) Courier and messenger services
(s) Personal care services
(t) Service contract services
(u) Security system services
(v) Document preparation services
(w) Miniwarehouse services and self-storage unit services

It's a really long list and I am not sure why some things are in it and some are not. It doesn't seem particularly well thought out and I doubt that anyone truly understands what the fiscal impact will be on both taxpayers and the state budget.

The reforms that passed are often overlooked but the reality is that they may have the most long term impact of anything that happened this weekend. Reforming teacher benefits will save the state hundreds of millions each year which means more money going to the classroom. It also weakens the teacher unions politically. Under the current system they make gobs of money by administrating their own health care benefits. The new law provides school districts greater ability to purchase their health care benefits elsewhere. Without the monopoly on health care, the teacher unions will not have as much money to spread around during campaign years. And since they usually spend this money against my boss, the less money they have for politics the better.

That is the update from Lansing. I am thankful we avoided a government shutdown and relieved to return to normal working hours instead of being at the capitol until 5 a.m. every night.