Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Blatant, Shameless Self-Promotion

Ice Halo, the acoustic-type group I'm in has been working on a webpage on MySpace.

It's still very much a work in progress, but if'n you get bored and would like to check it out, feel free to give it a visit. It has streaming versions of some of our songs as well as some scribblin' 'bout us.

Suddenly, I feel like I need a shower... I feel so filthy and commercial!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

No Wonder I'm Always Confused

Last weekend, I was at a local grocery store to pick up a couple (literally - as in two) items. I decided, given my small purchase, that I would use the express lane, which was clearly marked as being for purchases of 15 items or less.
A lady stood in front of me in the line. She was purchasing a single head of cabbage. In front of HER, however, was a woman who was purchasing far MORE that 15 items. It looked closer to 150 items, in fact.
So the cabbage lady and I stood in line for a long, long, long time while the cashier in the so-called "express lane" rang up this dumbass woman's huge order.
At long last, the cabbage lady got her turn to buy her item.
"So, do you ever tell people with more than 15 items to use a lane other than the express lane?" asked the cabbage lady.
"I can't," replied the cashier. "If I do, I'll be suspended for two days."


This made my brain hurt. Let me see if I've got this correct...the store sets up an express lane for the convenience of its customers. If, however, somebody is too stupid or selfish to follow the 15-items-or-less rule, the cashier isn't allowed to turn the stupid/selfish customer away for fear of causing "offense" to the stupid/selfish customer. And if the cashier DOES stand up for the people who are smart or conscientious enough to follow the rules, the cashier gets punished?!?

In other words, a situation has been set up in which stupid/selfish behavior goes unpunished which, in turn, makes things more difficult for the smart/conscientious people who follow the rules.

If that's the prevailing paradigm, one should expect an increase in stupid/selfish behavior at the expense of smart/conscientious behavior, right?

Hmmm... Suddenly, the reasons for the entire Wall Street/Banking meltdown make a LOT more sense to me now...

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Silver Lining

I realize my blog might have been a little on the depressing side lately. I don't mean for it to be such a downer, but it has merely been a reflection of what's been going on in my life.

I am happy, though, to have a wee bit of good news to share. A group of documentary filmmakers from Canada are working on a film called "Dear John". It's about the closure of the John Deere factory in Welland, Ontario and the resulting harmful impact on their local economy. Through a sequence of events so convoluted I can't even reconstruct them, we somehow were contacted by said filmmakers to see if Ice Halo, an acoustic group I'm in, could contribute a song for the soundtrack. (Actually, I think they were talking to Joel Rash regarding the project and he suggested us to them... so thanks, Joel!)

Anyway, to make a long story short, the Dear John folks have released a trailer for the film and lo & behold one of our songs, "Short Circuit" was featured in it! I thought that was pretty cool and it provided me with a much-needed lift to my spirits!

Ironically, given my current circumstances, the words of the laid-off workers featured in the clip resonate with me more than ever now, so I'm even happier to be associated in at least a small way with the efforts of these fine filmmakers from north o'the border!

I'm going to try to embed the video of the trailer to this post, but since I don't know what the hell I'm doing, it may or may not work. If it does, feel free to check out the clip and if "Dear John" should ever be screened at a film festival near you, please support their work and see it if you get a chance!

Well I'll be damned! It worked! I may catch on to this computer stuff after all!!!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Broke or Just Broken?

The Univeristy of Michigan, the very institution that on April 23 announced they no longer had the money to fund WFUM, yesterday announced they were purchasing the 174-acre Pfizer research complex for an estimated $108 million.

Broke indeed.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


Today, as I looked out the windows of my soon-to-be-former workplace, I noticed something I haven't seen in Flint in a very long time: cranes. Three of them, in fact.
As someone born in a city known more for its decay than its rebuilding, I was always envious of cities with copious cranes on their skylines. Cranes, to me, meant things were being built - or at least rebuilt or at the very least cared for and maintained. Having cranes means having a future. Having cranes means we believe in ourselves enough to plan for things to come. And now we have cranes. I'd been waiting a long time for them to return.
And the irony is now that the cranes have returned, I may have to go elsewhere to secure employment. I'm reminded of the story of Moses where after 40 years in the wilderness he gets a fleeting view of the promised land... knowing he's not destined to make it there with everyone else.
But at least I got this brief tantalizing glimpse of a possible brighter future for my poor battered hometown. At least I got to see the cranes.

In other news, on Monday the Flint Journal published my opinion piece about the University of Michigan bailing out from WFUM. The response I've received has been overwhelmingly positive and for that I'm relieved. I know it probably won't make much difference in practical terms, but I felt compelled to make the case for the station, the viewers and the community it served. I did the best I could within the constraints of the 600-word limit.

Meanwhile, I am slowly cleaning out my office. Today, I'm going to be taking down a nicely framed wall poster showing a stunning picture of Michigan taken from space.

Packing Michigan away...

I wonder whether there's more symbolism there than I now realize.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

May Haiku

Night rain. I listen
And worry about my life.
And still the rain falls.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

On the Road to Unemployment

I'm now living in the limbo world between relative financial security and wondering how I'm going to pay the bills.

Okay. Perhaps that's a bit overdramatic, but that's the way it feels. I found out late last week that we would be getting our "RIF" (reduction in force) letters on May 29. Since I've worked here over ten years, that will serve as my 90-day notice. I will have until the end of August and then it's goodbye paycheck and goodbye health benefits for both me and my family. Strangely, the one benefit that DOESN'T expire is I will have life insurance for one year after that date. I will thus have the ghoulish satisfaction of knowing I will literally be worth more dead than alive.

On the one hand, not getting the "letter of doom" for a few more weeks is nice in that it gives me a few extra weeks of pay. On the other hand, from an emotional standpoint, it just seems to prolong the inevitable. Another little cosmic insult is that 90 days from May 29 will be August 27. And the 20th anniversary of my full time employment at WFUM? August 28. Yup. I won't even get a 20-year service award... one lousy day short!!!

A relative who went through the unemployment process said that for a couple weeks it was difficult, but after that, she started dealing with things more positively. I hope so. For me, I've been dealing with things well enough during the day. It's just when I wake up in the middle of the night that I feel there's a cloud of despair over me. It's just the uncertainty of it all. What's going to happen? Will I have to move? How much less will my new job pay when and if I find one? Will we be able to pay the bills? Will my wife need to find a new job to supplement our income?

Ugh! It all seems to hit at once. Even during the day it feels as though there's a river of dread somewhere in the background slowly wearing away at me. What I need is a good dose of Tao or Zen or perhaps just a good dose of alcohol.

In other news, I've been asked by the Flint Journal to write a guest opinion piece about the University's defunding of WFUM. It's scheduled to run on Monday, May 11. Some folks at the University might not like it, but what are they gonna do? Fire me? Besides, it was written in a respectful manner (not that I wasn't TEMPTED to be rude!) so I don't think they should get TOO bent outta shape. I don't flatter myself into thinking my opinion will actually change anything, but if I were to walk away without making a final statement in defense of WFUM, I would never forgive myself.

And in between everything else going on, I've been looking at help wanted ads. There was absolutely nothing that would be a good fit for a PBS veteran like myself. Local ads? Nothing. National ads? Nothing. It was SO frustrating! Then, however, my wife saw an ad for a job in Ann Arbor (not at the University)that sounds like it's right up my alley. Repetitive, detail-oriented nerd work. I cranked out a usable resume in one night and wrote a cover letter today. I don't even know what the job pays (it could be minimum wage with no benefits, for all I know) but it just feels SO good to have SOMETHING out there. It may not pan out, there may be dozens of more qualified applicants, but just being able to send in an application and knowing there's a chance of something fills me with hope.

Hopefully, sometime tomorrow the letter and resume will go into the mailbox. And then we'll see.

One other thing I do have to look forward to our family vacation to Washington DC in mid-June. The fact that we're still taking it has surprized some people, but we decided to since: 1.) the trip was already half paid for back in January... back when I thought I had a secure job, and 2.) given the age of our children it may be the last chance we have for a nice family trip for a long time... if ever again. The crappy thing is the extent of my "severance package" is that I get to cash out my accumulated vacation time, so this may ultimately turn out to be one expensive vacation in more ways than one. But sometimes you just have to enjoy life when you can.