Friday, September 30, 2011

30 Day Blog Challenge: Day 30

Finally!  The end is neigh!  As we come to the close of the 30 Day Blog Challenge, I have a confession to make.  This was a heck of a lot harder than I ever expected it to be.  The challenge to the challenge wasn't what I expected it to be.  Writing for 30 days in a row is challenging in and of itself, especially as an engineer in the auto industry.  Things come up that need to be dealt with.  Sometimes, you go into work expecting to be out after 8 hours and you end up leaving after 12.  It's also a challenge just to generate content on a specific topic when you feel no connection to the topic at all.  I'm sure that when you read the posts of the past 30 days, it becomes pretty clear pretty quickly which topics I struggled with.  However, I also learned that if I force myself to write, trudge through the inability to choose words or think coherently and just get letters on the screen, I'll hit a rhythm and something will turn from a struggle of a post to a long, almost manifesto.

I love that the 30 Day Blog Challenge ends on a positive note.  There have been many positive things that have happened to me since the start of this challenge, especially since I try and find the positive in any situation.  Here's the required five positives, and only the required five.  If I went longer, I'd find myself typing all day.  In no particular order.

As I mentioned in a previous post for the challenge, a few weeks ago, my wife and I learned how to spin yarn.  I didn't really expect to enjoy myself that much, but I found it thrilling.  I've since spun a whole bunch of yarn, taught myself how to Navajo ply it, and wound it into a center pull ball, all new skills that I've begun to develop.  Now, I can add this to my Zombie apocalypse bag of survival skills.

Tonight, Katie and I get to go see Tim Minchin live!  Have you not heard of Tim Minchin?  Try looking here. Tim is a great Austrailian living in England musical comedian best known for his ability to tackle any topic with a great deal of humor.  Did you see that, Tim?  Humor.  Not Humour.  Humor.  I don't care what BBC America tries to tell me, Humor is not funnier with an extra U.  Frak, I love boobs though.  (Watch some Tim Minchin videos online if you don't understand that joke)

As many of you know by now, I'm an engineer for Chrysler.  Just yesterday, I was privileged enough to see a bit into the future.  It's well known across the industry (and is no secret) that we have a few new vehicles in the pipeline.  I was able to see the drawings of several of them, and you will love them.  We have vehicles coming out within the next five years (cars can take a really long time to develop, if you weren't aware) that fill every vehicle niche.  The first of these cars will be publicly revealed and in showrooms within the next 12 months.  I can't tell you much, but I can tell you that it's a vehicle that you'll want to stand in line for.  This car is gorgeous.  It's practical, economical, and fun to drive all at once.  The car will have a version for just about every customer.  I can tell you that there are a few things we're putting on this vehicle that will be class exclusives (meaning no other vehicle in the vehicle class will have them).  I can also tell you that the new lines of vehicles coming out will represent the best of what Fiat and Chrysler have to offer. Considering that our Chrysler 300 just received the highest Consumer Reports score ever given to a Chrysler vehicle, you can imagine how excited we are about our future.

Also work related, this month I learned a great deal about vehicle dynamics.  See, one of my programs has a new limited build coming up (I don't know if I can explain more without losing my job) and the vehicle is getting retuned by dynamics.  What this means is that many of the suspension components that are tunable (shocks, springs, stabilizer bar, ect) are getting changed to give the car a completely different feel on the road.  When Top Gear talks about the "handling" of a car, about 75% of it is suspension tuning, the other 25% is steering tuning.  Because of this I got to learn a lot more about the dynamic performance of vehicles and what they look for in tuning a car.  I learned about the 70 mph flick steer test (don't try this at home) where while driving at 70 mph (usually on a closed course), you flick the steering wheel about 15-20 degrees to one side and count how many oscillations it takes for the wheel to center itself out.  I also learned about after shake, cyclic yaw, and a number of other things.  The best part about is was that I got to do essentially side by side comparisons between several cars to see what impact these things have on your driving experience.

Last Saturday was pretty much a day full of amazing. Katie and I met up with a friend of ours and headed out to ArtPrize over in Grand Rapids.  While there, we were able to see a large number of impressive works of art, but most notably, The Infernal Device.  Then, there was lunch at Founders Brewing Company for lunch.  Not only did I get a fantastic pulled pork BBQ sandwich, I also had Backwoods Bastard, their Dirty Bastard aged in barrels.  It's the best beer that I've ever tasted.  From there, it only got better.  We found a great little fiber store on our way out of town, and I picked up 8oz of a fun dye of merino and a full pound of another fun purple dyed wool.  Once we got home, there was what GQ lists as one of the Top 25 burgers in the country at Sidetrack and Dogfish Head Brewing's Punk'n on tap.  Of course, we finished it all up with ice cream and Doctor Who.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

30 Day Blog Challenge: Day 29

I hate to break it to you, but I object to today's topic as well. Don't worry. I'm not going to cop out on you this close to the end of the challenge. I'm just going to adjust the topic how I choose.

See, the problem with heroes is that having one elevates a person to the status of being infallible. Realistically, even the best heroes have faults. Batman is a paranoid schizophrenic, arrogant, and untrusting. Superman is emotional, unable to see morally gray areas, and lacks a plan B when brute force doesn't work. Iron Man is an alcoholic, womanizer, with an ego the size of a planet...wait. I guess Iron Man doesn't have any flaws. Ok, I'm kidding, but I know more than a few people who legitimately believe that.

Real people are no better when it comes to being a hero. Politicians are corrupt, and the scandals come faster than we can keep them straight. Athletes are flawed as well. Tiger Woods sleeps around and runs his car into trees. Michael Vick runs dog fighting rings. Hell, even that yellow shirted bastion of hope, Lance Armstrong, is a drug user.

Herein lies the issue with heroes. The very concept of a hero implies that they are flawless, yet we're all broken. To hold anybody up to the name of hero does them a disservice. I don't think, however, that it's necessary to completely disregard the good things that people do, we just need to remember that there's no such thing as perfect.

What is far better than to consider anybody a hero is to simply look up to them for the things that they do well, while accepting their flaws. In that respect, there are many many people I look up to. Here's just a small list of them, links to more information, and why I look up to them.

Hajj Flemings ( is a fellow Michigan Tech alum. He played basketball for Tech, and has since gone on to become the second most successful person that I know. (Sorry, Hajj, I know the man who's # 2 in command of the most successful car in NASCAR.) He's designed his own shoe (one of his lifelong dreams), written a book, and is a personal branding expert. Hajj works with the Detroit Lions, training their rookies to present themselves in a professional way that will help them succeed both on and off the field. He's also been featured on ESPN, The Wall Street Journal, and is featured in CNN's Black in America 4. Hajj has taken the risks necessary to do what he truly loves to do. I wish that I even knew what I'd truly love to do with my life.

Lex Machina ( is a fantastic photographer. While her story isn't nearly as verbally impressive has Hajj's, her work is visually stunning. Lex is currently working on her Graphoscope project, where she documents the sights of Steampunk at various conventions and events, presenting them in a way that very closely resembles period accurate pictures. Pictures from The Graphoscope can be found here. I wish that I had half of the raw talent for photography that Lex does.

Christine Rose aka O.M. Grey ( is a self published author who has done the incredible. By creating herself an alter ego (O.M. Grey), finding a hyper specific niche that she excels in, and dialing the social media knobs to 11, she's marketed herself into having one of the top selling paranormal romance novels on Kindle. I wish that I had her social media skills.

Lastly, (for this post) Sean Stephenson ( is a living miracle. He was diagnosed with osteogenesis imperfecta, also known as "brittle bones disease". Doctors expected him to die within days of birth, then within months, then he was told that he wouldn't live to graduate high school. Sean's done much more than that. He's a board certified clinical psychotherapist, certified instructor of neuro-linguistic programming, and working on a doctoral degree. He's published four books, had his own television show, and served as Presidential Liaison for the Office of Cabinet Affairs. Sean's testified to the US Senate, thrown out the first pitch at an MLB game, and worked with the most inspirational man on earth, Tony Robbins. On top of that, he is a professional speaker who travels the country inspiring thousands to "Get off their 'But'!" Not too shabby for a little guy in a wheel chair that nobody expected to live. I wish that I had Sean's courage, determination, drive, and desire to succeed.

Aside from the four people I mention above, I admire dozens, if not hundreds more for various reasons. Here's a partial list without great detail: AJ and Jordan Harbinger, Brian May, Tim Minchin, Jake Von Slatt, my wife, my parents, Penn Jillette, Adam and Jamie from Mythbusters, Tim Ferriss, Wil Wheaton, Christopher Moore, Neil Gaiman, Cherie Priest, and Professor Elemental.

Who do you admire, and why?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

30 Day Blog Challenge: Day 28

I think it's pretty clear by now that I try to maintain an almost holy level of mellow.  Of course, I often fail.  Part of the super mellow that I try to maintain is not getting stressed and dealing with stressful situations in a way that minimizes the impact on my thoughts, feelings, and psyche.  But, like I said, I often fail.

Really, there are a limited number of things that are even capable of stressing me out.  Chief among those reasons is traffic.  It's no secret that Detroit has a higher concentration of shitty drivers than anyplace else on Earth.  No, I'm not saying they're the worst, or that there's more shitty drivers, but the Detroit shitty drivers are thick as flies.  The number of shitty drivers per capita is what I'm getting at here.  I love driving, but there's nothing that drives me battier than being surrounded by complete dumb shits who can't grasp the most basic driving concepts.  Seriously people, if you can't drive, get the hell off the road.  It's not that damn hard to understand.

Another thing that I get stressed out by (and also annoyed) is having to explain something multiple times to somebody who really should know better.  I'll give an example.  At work, I was dealing with a particular person for a project.  At a meeting about said project, I had to explain to him no less than six times exactly what the scope of said project was.  It would be one thing if I had never discussed the project with him before this.  Unfortunately, this wasn't the case.  I had previously explained this very project to him four or five times before we got into the the meeting, and he still didn't remember/understand.  Seriously?  How stupid do you have to be to forget something after having it explained that many times?

I suppose that, depending on how you look at it, I never actually get stressed out because these things more annoy the ever living crap out of me than they do stress me out.  But, then again, being annoyed is kind of stressful, so take it however you like.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

30 Day Blog Challege: Day 27

I'd love to give today's post everything that I can.  I really would.  However, there's a problem.  I live in a commuter town.  Canton is little more than a collection of subdivisions connected to a main road with some shopping and eating on it.  I can prove it.  Do a Google images search for Canton, MI.  Here's the first 5 images that you'll see.

See what I'm getting at?  There ARE no pictures of Canton.  So, instead, I'll share a few pictures each of Houghton and Detroit.  Houghton because I call it home, and Detroit because Canton may as well be a part of Detroit.


And Detroit:


Monday, September 26, 2011

30 Day Blog Challenge: Day 26

Remember a few days ago when I indicated that I'd be taking a cop out today?  At the time, I said that I'd explain in the future.  Time for an explanation.

I find the idea of a "dream wedding" to be a bit absurd.  Many women grow up with their idea of a dream wedding that they've had since they were a little girl.  I hate to burst the dream bubble of your inner little girl, but "dream weddings" don't happen.  There are any number of reasons, from budget, to not being able to get the location, to your mother disagreeing with you, to any number of other things that not can, but will interfere with your dream.

Since I try my best to not plan too far in advance and maintain flexibility, I've never had a "dream" wedding.  Sure, I've had general ideas.  I wanted a wedding that was fairly small, laid back, fun, and had great food.  I got all of those things.  See, it's silly for me to write about my dream wedding because I've already had it. 

Sunday, September 25, 2011

30 Day Blog Challenge: Day 25

I'm going to go ahead and completely destroy any remaining idea that I might be a typical guy today.  As we approach the end of this experiment that I embarked on for the sole purpose of getting myself back into the habit of writing posts, I've come to the conclusion that I don't have very many regular readers, but those that do have gotten quite a glimpse into my life.

I try to not look forward to very many things.  I don't want to be disappointed when they don't happen, or when they happen in a way that isn't quite like I expected it to be.  I do, however, look forward to fatherhood.  If you've ever seen me with a baby or a small animal, it's pretty clear that I I love babies.  The idea that I can help to create life and have the largest impact on that child's life is thrilling to me.  

Many of my friends are kind of dreading this.  I doubt that they dread it because they think I'd make a bad father.  I'm pretty sure that their objection is much more along the lines of "The world already has one Bryan.  It doesn't need a mini-Bryan."  They're right.  You know what the world does need?  A Stormageddon, Dark Lord of All.  I've decided that this will be my child's nickname.  I'll call them "Stormy" for short.

I plan on raising my children to question everything, even myself and what I teach them.  My general idea with parenting is that it is my job to point my child in the right direction and let them take it from there.  I think that the key is to strike a balance between helping them to do their best and succeed and allowing them to stumble, and learn from their own mistakes.  Of course, This is all in theory.  Since Katie and I don't have kids yet, and we don't really plan on doing so for at least another few years, this could all change by the time kids happen.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

30 Day Blog Challenge: Day 24

Having recently passed through the years that have recently been termed the "quarter life crisis", I've learned many things in my life.  Of course, I don't in any way think that there's not much more that I need to learn.  I think that the most important of all things I've learned is the importance of people.

I'm a scientist (an engineer really, but engineering is a type of science).  As a scientist, I thrive on information, evidence, and data.  With minor things in life (for example, whether or not it is currently raining), I may just take the word of somebody who tells me that it's true.  Why?  There's no real loss to me if they're incorrect, lying, or unclear on location.  With bigger things, though, I require proof.  This is a hallmark of being a scientist.  We don't make decisions based on hearsay and we always question the proof that is given to us.  As a result, I'm an atheist in the real sense of the word, not what is has become portrayed as in modern times.  Atheist simply means "without god".  I am without god.  Don't worry about it, it's ok.  It doesn't mean that I am a disbeliever, I am simply a non-believer.  As a result of this, I know that I cannot place the supposed desires of an unproven entity in the sky above the reality of the known world.

What I know most of in this known world is people.  We interact with dozens of people on a daily basis, an each of them impacts our lives.  The reality is that we are the sum of all factors that determine who we are.  This includes ex girlfriends and ex boyfriends whom you're not on speaking terms with.  This includes the well dressed man at the mall who complimented you on your hat.  This includes the woman working at Tim Horton's who is somehow cheerful at 6 am.  We also impact the people we interact with as well.  If I am cranky and in a hurry and don't hold a door open for somebody, it impacts their life.  Likewise, when I see a girl who clearly has very low self esteem but is wearing some pretty excellent glasses and I go out of my way to compliment her on her glasses, it impacts her life.

No matter what happens with your work, with your sports, with your video games, with anything else, your friends and family will always be there for you.  You may not particularly like some of your family, and you may not see your friends as often as you'd like, but they're there.  It's part of the job description.  As a thank you, we owe it to our friends, our family, and the random people whom we encounter on a daily basis to try and have as much of a positive impact on their lives as we can.  When we die, we leave very little behind but some random objects and the impact that we've had on others.

If you want to start getting a little sentimental, you can look at it this way.  I impact the life of a small child when I catch their balloon that was trying to escape and tie it around their wrist.  That child, then grows up, and impacts the life of another child.  This continues for generations.  As a result, we, in a way, can live forever.

It doesn't matter what car you drive, what size house you live in, or what (if any) god or gods  you choose to worship.  What matters is the relationships that you maintain with the people you encounter.  What matters is that you somehow leave every person you meet a little bit better off than when you met them.  There is nothing of greater importance.

Friday, September 23, 2011

30 Day Blog Challenge: Day 23

I've been kind of protesting some of the lame topics given in this 30 Day Blog Challenge, but I'm going to try my best to live up to the spirit of the challenge in these closing days.  I will, however, be taking a cop out on Day 26.  I'll explain more on that day.

Today, I'm supposed to share a bit about my favorite TV shows and movies.  I like a whole lot of movies and don't really know how to pick my favorite.  I was planning on telling you about one of each (movie and TV show), but instead, I'm going to adjust slightly and give you my two favorite TV shows.

My favorite TV show of all time has been off the air for over a half decade.  The West Wing centered on the inner workings of the White House West Wing, with the fictional Democrat Josiah "Jed" Bartlet of New Hampshire playing the role of President. 

I love this show for many reasons, but the primary of these is how the show portrays the characters not as infallible, but as human.  The show spends a great deal of time addressing the every day problems of the characters including President Bartlet's MS, Leo McGarry's alcoholism, the aging of C.J. Cregg's father, President Bartlet's needing to impress his dead father, and countless other issues.  The show also shows the very real reactions to disaster, including the kidnap of the President's daughter, the President being shot, the death of a long time friend, and the slaying of US diplomats visiting Gaza.

The West Wing has always been an incredibly well written show and struck an excellent balance between explaining every detail of a situation, and assuming that the audience knows everything there is to know about politics.  

I think that almost more than anything else, I love The West Wing because this imaginary President from New Hampshire is a better President for this country than any of at least the past 5 Presidents that we've actually had.  Of course, he has the advantage of having everything scripted by one of the best writing teams in all of television, but it's still rather impressive.

I think it's of no surprise to anybody that the other favorite show I have is Doctor Who.  The show is a masterpiece of science fiction, despite my continual utterance of the sentence "Damn you, Moffat, how are you going to write yourself out of this one" during the past two seasons.  The characters are dynamic, the writing witty, and the production value is very high. I love how most of Doctor Who can be watched in any order without losing too much of the story.  Pick almost any random episode during the early years as well as the Chris Eccleston  and David Tennant eras, and you'll be presented with a complete mini-feature film with a beginning, middle, and end along with decent character development, action, and drama.

One of the surprising things about Doctor Who is just how much development goes into each episode.  For an episode that features an alien race which appears in no other episodes, the character development leads you to believe that somebody's got a file with the full history of the species and all of the details from eating, society, and mating, to the favorite color of the particular individuals portrayed in the episode.  This is the depth that the series goes into.

I can talk about my favorite TV shows for quite a while.  But, I think that would would be the best for anybody reading this is to track down some episodes and watch them.  I believe that old episodes of The West Wing are available on Hulu, and Doctor Who can be found on BBC America...or whatever channel it happens to be broadcast on in your country.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

30 Day Blog Challenge: Day 22

This is yet another topic that I think is incredibly lame.  Asking me what I want my future to be like is just absurd.  I don't plan my future.  Nobody should.  It forces you to have expectations that you'll then be let down when they don't occur.  

Sure, you can have a general sense of what you'd like to do with your life.  I've known since I was a young age that I wanted to be an engineer.  When your favorite toy is Lego and has been since longer than you can remember, it's a reasonable expectation that you'd want to be an engineer.  What I didn't do, is plan out exactly where I wanted to go, what type of engineering that I wanted to major in, where I wanted to work, or anything like that.  I didn't plan exactly the type of woman that I wanted to marry, where I wanted to live, or how many kids I wanted to have.  I didn't plan what type of car I wanted to drive, how big of a house I wanted to have, or what computer I wanted to own.  These are silly things to plan.

I want my future to be full of awesome.  I want to have some point.  I want to own my own some point.  I'd like to get my masters and possibly a some point.  I want my family to be happy and for my kids to have a better life than I've had.

Planning you life is for little girls who want to grow up to be princesses and parents who have entirely unrealistic expectations for their children.  Life is about being in the moment, learning from the past without dwelling on it, and positioning yourself for the best future possible, without being dead set on anything particular happening.  The cliche is that life is about the journey.  The issue I take with that statement is that it implies that there's a destination.  The reality is that life is a series of random events, meaningless coincidences, and is meant to be enjoyed for everything it's worth.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

30 Day Blog Challenge: Day 21

Part of my attempts at remaining very calm and mellow about things is that I try my best to not get too emotionally riled up either positively or negatively.  That's not to say that I don't get happy or sad, but I temper it with the knowledge that emotions are controllable and that they are temporary.  As a result, I generally find it to be somewhat silly to be proud of most things.

Take being an American for example.  If you're born in America, you didn't choose to be an American, you played no part in your being American, and in fact, you're American by sheer luck of the draw.  It's actually rather silly to be proud of something that you had nothing to do with.  I'm not talking about being proud of a sports team for their performance, but they won, not you.  It's the same way for being American.  

That being said, there is one thing that I have done, that I am responsible for that I'm proud of.  I'm proud of my willingness to try almost anything at least three times.  Why three times?  The first time you try something, you have no idea what you're doing, so you can't really trust the test results.  After the second trial, you've only got one data point that you can trust, and you can't make a decision based on a single piece of data.  After the third test, you've got two data points, and while two really isn't ideal for a decision, you can start to get a sense of a trend.  Two negatives tell you that you're probably going to continue to dislike something, two positives tell you that you're most likely to continue to like something, and one of each means you need more testing.

I tried this out last weekend.  Saturday, Katie, a couple of our friends, and I went out to a nearby town, and Katie and I learned how to spin yarn using a drop spindle.  Given that I can't knit, crochet, and generally don't understand fiber arts, I didn't really expect to get into it.  However, I gave it a shot because I'll try anything at least three times.  

I'll admit it was a bit rough at the beginning.  We were at a store that sells fiber and spinning supplies and has a spinning get together now and then.  After about five minutes of stumbling through badly, the owner of the store got fed up.  She said "Ok, this is driving me crazy, come here and I'll give you a few pointers".  After about ten minutes of impromptu lessons, I tried again, and was much better.  By the end of the day, I was doing what's called "free spinning".  This is when instead of spinning a short distance, stopping to pull out some more fiber, and then continuing, you pull out fiber while you spin.  This is the first major milestone in spinning.  

Saturday, Katie and I fell in love with spinning. Yeah, it's not exactly the "manliest" hobby that we could have picked up, but I also make my own kilts.  I think it's pretty safe to say that I don't give a damn about being manly.  I love spinning because it's soothing.  I have to concentrate, but not too much.  I have to concentrate, but not on anything that's terribly mentally taxing.  I'm developing a new skill, which I find thrilling.  There's fiber dyed fun colors from several sources.  Most importantly, you're actually making something.  You're even doing more than making something, because you're not making an end product.  When  you're making a kilt, you're done with it as soon as the kilt's actually made.  However, with spinning, when you're done making yarn, you're only halfway done with the fun.  You then get to make stuff with your yarn.  I think the best of all of these is a man who spun the thread, dyed it, wove it, and then made a kilt out of it.  

A few weeks ago, Katie and one of her coworkers were discussing post-apocalyptic survival skills and determined that we're better off than most.  We own axes and knives, which we know how to use.  We're handy at creating things, are quick to learn new things, and willing to try anything.  We can mend (and make) our own clothes, and with our new skill, we can even make the fabric that we can make our clothes out of.  How cool is that?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

30 Day Blog Challenge: Day 20

I'm taking pretty much the ultimate cop out on the topic today.  I'm hard pressed to think of one of these 30 day challenge topics that I like less.  Wondering "what if" about something seems like a great way to dwell on the past, which doesn't really serve to help anybody.  I live in the moment.  I don't look back and wonder what I could have done to make things different.  It's that simple.

Monday, September 19, 2011

30 Day Blog Challenge: Day 19

A few years ago, I was presented with an opportunity to do something most people don't get a chance to.  I actually got an opportunity to say to an ex everything that I wanted to say.  

Here's the situation.  As I mentioned before, I had the mandatory "crazy ex" when I was younger.  She broke up with me and started dating a mutual friend a few days later.  Then, just a few weeks before I graduated, I was out with Katie and several other friends at the bar when we ran into her.

Off to the side of the others, we talked for about five minutes. That's all I really needed.  I told my ex that I didn't regret being in a relationship with her and that looking back, I don't regret that it ended.  I did, however, regret how it ended.  Of course I know looking back that I was needy and clingy and everything that's bad in a relationship and that there was no way to end it other than abruptly.

The only thing that I wish that I could have changed about the end of our relationship is that it took four years to even be able to say "hi" to one another.  I still think that we could have, if not been friends, at least been cordial to one another for a few of those years.  I still love my ex because I love everybody I meet.  Every person I meet has an impact on my life.  I wouldn't be who I am without any one of them, and I love who I am.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

30 Day Blog Challenge: Day 18

I try to not be very sentimental, but often fail.  I still sleep with the same stuffed rabbit that I've had since longer than I can remember.  When I got married, I carried my grandfathers with me.  The inside pocket on my coat contained one of the shells from Grandpa Morrison's 21 gun salute and my Grandpa Sebeck's money clip that he had used for as long as anybody can remember.  I also had both a Morrison Clan belt buckle and kilt pin at the wedding.  

The one thing that I miss more than anything else in the world is fall in the UP.  There's something special about fall in the picturesque wilderness of the UP that you just can't duplicate anyplace else.  People talk about how great the leaves are in New England during the fall.  I don't doubt that they're pretty excellent, but the truth is that it's too commercialized and touristy.  You can't get anyplace to actually look at leaves because the entire eastern seaboard has taken the weekend to go look.  In the UP, however, the only traffic in your way of checking out the scenery is hunters and deer.  Not only can you see better leaves and drive better roads, but you can do it at speed.   In fact, fall in the UP (especially the Keweenaw) is so great that the video game Dirt 3 features not just one, but an entire series of tracks in the Keweenaw Peninsula.  There's even the Lake Superior Performance Rally, which has been known to draw big named racers like Travis Pastrana from across the country.

Aside from driving the UP to check out the great colors, there are other things that the UP is great for in the fall.  Take fresh venison for example.  I don't hunt.  I don't exactly have any moral opposition to it, but my dad's a teacher, and we never had the time available for me to learn how and to spend the time at camp.  That doesn't, however, mean that I can't reap the benefits of hunting.  My brother-in-law is a pretty great hunter.  In fact, when they built their house, they situated a bedroom window to line up straight down an alley in the trees.  This window flips down into the bedroom and means that he can actually bag his first buck of the season minutes after waking up, in his underwear.  Needless to say, there's plenty of fresh venison to be had.  Venison is a great meat that is full of fantastic flavor and just a little gamy.  

Then, there's the weather.  Fall is great in the UP for weather.  Temperatures throughout September average in the 60s, in the 50s during October, and in the high 30's in November.  I can't think of better weather for a season.  It's cool enough that you can wear flannel and sweaters all that you like, but not so cold that you can't enjoy an ice cream cone or a cold beer.  

Most of all, I miss the people in the UP.  I regularly talk about how taking a trip to the UP is like taking a trip back in time.  Socially, the area is stuck twenty to thirty years in the past on most things.  But, putting that aside, the people are some of the nicest and most well meaning people that you'll ever meet.  Within a few minutes of meeting anybody, you're family.  Maybe it's because I grew up there, but no matter where my blood relatives move, I will always feel at home in the UP, and there's no better time to have the feeling than fall.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

30 Day Blog Challege: Day 17

Generally, I don't mind the iPod shuffle post topic.  It is, however, a bit misleading for me.  See, my phone currently has all of the Doctor Who soundtracks on it along with some other stuff, but the quantity of songs is heavily weighted towards Doctor Who, unlike my listening habits.  With that being said, here's the list.

1. 311 - Other Side of Things
2. 311 - Life's Not a Race
3. 311 - And A Ways to Go.
4. Florence + The Machine - Girl With One Eye
5. Doctor Who Season 5 - You Must Like It Here
6. 311- Daisy Cutter
7. 311 - I'll Be Here Awhile.
8. Doctor Who - Rose Defeats The Daleks
9. The Bawdy Boys - The Good Ship Venus 
10. They Might Be Giants - Cells

Ok, so that turned out unlike I expected it.  Instead of biasing the results to Doctor Who, it more or less reflects what I actually listen to, 311.

Friday, September 16, 2011

30 Day Blog Challenge: Day 16

Maybe it's because I'm a guy, or perhaps because I'm an engineer, but I don't really feel any great feelings one way or another about my body.  Largely, my body exists to transport me from place to place, facilitate productivity and enjoyment, and to keep my brain functioning.  It is neither my temple, nor is it a worthless sack.  It exists to serve a purpose, and it does a mostly good job of that.

That being said, there are some minor things that I would change which I feel would help it to do it's job.  Yes, I could spare to lose about 20 lbs, but I'm not talking about that.  Take a momentary look at all of the fastest animals on earth, or any animal that does a great deal of running for that matter.  Every one of them has a reverse bending knee joint.  The human leg design is horrible for speed.  Generally, it's a pretty crappy design.  It'd be far better if I had reversed knee legs.  

The human spine is also a pretty horrible design.  It has bit curves in it that work great for four legged animals, but sucks at supporting our weight vertically.  Why do you think so many people have back problems?  Sure, they could take better care of it, but the bigger question is whether or not they should even have to.

Additionally, humans really ought to have a tail.  With as relatively large as we are for two legged creatures, humans really ought to have a tail for balance.  With the reversed knee legs, a long fairly heavy tail will help keep us balanced with how fast we'll now be able to run.

Really, most of humanity is a failure in design.  We fall apart all of the time.  All of the air that we breathe has to be funneled through two small holes in our head, which are attached to a long series of tunnels that get easily clogged.  Our eyes are slow to adapt to darkness, making it difficult for us to see at night.  We can go on for quite a while about how to improve the human body, but it would never get us anywhere.  Maybe I'm a bit weird for looking at the situation this way.  I'm ok with that.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

30 Day Blog Challenge: Day 15

After today, we'll be halfway through the challenge.  This is a good thing because I'll finally be in the home stretch of a list of topics that I'm rather ambivalent about.  Take today's topic for instance.  It should be something great that I can just talk about for quite a while, especially considering how much I love food.  But no, "death row meal" leads not to me talking forever, but merely thinking forever about "What would I choose?  Why the hell am I on death row in the first place?" and the like.

Then it came to me.  I'm a Yooper, and damn proud of it.  I try my damndest to represent all that is good about the UP while simultaneously leaving the bad stereotypes behind.  There's no better way for me to do this than do go out with a Kromer capped, blizzard trapped, bang.

The UP isn't necessarily the best farming land in the world, so we aren't known for our crops.  It's not the best for cows either, so we're not known for our beef.  We do, however, have an abundance of deer.  If there's a food that the UP is known for it's venison and there's no better way to have it than in a pasty.  I've told you about pasties before, haven't I?  They're a Cornish invention that came to the UP in the 1860's.  Shortly after the first wave of Cornish miners, the Finns followed.  They adopted the pasty, and over the years, it's kind of warped into a dish completely unique (in this form) to the UP.  They're typically, they have cubed meat (in the UP venison is king), potato (or rutabaga), carrot, celery, onion, spices, ect.  There's debate as to the proper topping for pasties.  Some say ketchup, others gravy, some say nothing at all.  I am in a bit of a unique category that thinks the best way to have it is with ketchup mixed with hot sauce.

In addition to the amazing pasty, it's only logical to have a beverage that it's also from the UP.  If you've known me for more than five minutes since the brewery opened, you know that the only option is a big frosty glass of beer from the Keweenaw Brewing Company.  Which beer?  That's a tough one.  Ultimately, I've got to go with their Olde Ore Dock Scottish Ale.  It's a great, slightly bitter brew...and I'm Scottish.  There's you go, my death row meal.  Nothing fancy, but delicious, and

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

30 Day Blog Challenge: Day 14

The longer that this challenge continues, the more I get kind of bothered by how lame these topics are.  They certainly do their job of forcing you to post because there's nothing easy about trying to come up with something to say for most of them.  Take today's post for instance, share a picture of yourself from a year ago and say what's changed about me since then?  I generally take the pictures. I'm never really in them.  So, I had to kind of dig and scrape, but I actually found a picture of myself from 2010.  It may, in fact, be the only picture of me from 2010.

Let's see now...what's changed about me since June of 2010?  I quit my job at the tiny stamping factory where I was the entirety of the quality control department.  Why'd I quit? I got my current job, which is awesome.  I also put on about 25-30 lbs.  When you go from running around a factory floor all day long to sitting in front of a computer, you burn a lot fewer calories.  I'm now at the heaviest I've ever been, and I've been here twice, 160 lbs.  Yeah, I know.  It doesn't sound like much, but when you're built on my frame, 160 is a few too many pounds to be packing around.  I've also gotten married, which was awesome.  Aside from that, not much has changed about me.  Things have changed in my life, but I remain pretty steady.  Yeah, I'm lame like that, and by lame, I mean awesome.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

30 Day Blog Challenge: Day 13

I feel a little bit like I'm giving you a cop out post again, but the challenge gives me a topic today that I've never really connected with.  I'm not a goal person.  To me, the idea of setting a goal is kind of like saying "Ok, I've lost the 30 lbs that I want to lose, so I'm going to stop working out now"

In my life, I've always had the same set of rather ambiguous goals.  I want to provide the best life that I can for myself, my wife, and my (future) children.  I want to have a job that I enjoy and pays well enough to provide for my family.  I want to leave the people that I meet better in some way than when I met them.  When I die, I want to do so having left a real and positive change on the world.

Everything that I do goes towards one of these goals.  In work, I never set specific goals.  I work as hard as I can to get done as much work as possible each individual day.  This way, I don't subconsciously pace myself so that I complete only my goals for the day, nor do I set unrealistic goals that are entirely unobtainable.  In each position, I seek only to move to a position that puts me in a better place to move up.  The same goes for whatever next position I move into.  I don't say that I want to make a certain level within the company within a certain time frame because I understand both that sometimes things don't work out and that sometimes I underestimate myself.  My goal is only to climb as high as possible, as fast as possible, all while enjoying my job and learning everything that I can along the way.

I don't say "I want to have X amount of money saved by X time".  Why should I limit myself to that amount or to that time?  I want to save as much money as I can in as short of a time as I can while still spending on the things that I enjoy and not sacrificing a comfortable lifestyle.

Ultimately, I feel that goals are more for people who have difficulty motivating themselves.  I know, funny for somebody who's doing a 30 Day Blog Challenge as a way to get into the habit of posting again.

Advanced Identity Protection Tactics from A Yooper Steampunk

As you're well aware of by now, I occasionally write letters to the editor of my hometown paper.  I've tried to cut down on this as I try to become less politically reactionary (and live up to the "you're entitled to your opinion, even if it's wrong" mentality that I claim to have).  Recently, however, I saw an opportunity to expand on an editorial they had printed about the importance of being proactive in protecting your identity.  That letter was printed yesterday, and is reprinted below:

The editorial run in the Daily Press on Sept. 5 offered a number of great tips for readers to protect themselves from identity theft. However, in an increasingly technological age, I don't think your suggestions went far enough. Here are a few more advanced tips to protect yourself.
1.) Avoid "About Me" memes, especially those that ask questions like "What is your mother's maiden name?," "What color was your first car?," or "What was your high school's mascot?." These questions are commonly used security questions for retrieving passwords. Memes are full of these questions. Armed with these answers and an email address, any hacker can easily access your online accounts.
2.) Get rid of (or block) Pay Wave cards. One of the most common types of identity theft involves a person sitting in a public space with a laptop and a box that looks like an external hard drive. Portable RFID tag readers can scan your credit card information from Pay Wave cards from a surprising distance. Scam artists then use this info to clone your card and make purchases on your dime. If you have a Pay Wave card, call up your card issuer and request a non-Pay Wave version. If there isn't one available, buy a protective wallet. It doesn't have to be one of those Alumiwallets that you see ads for on TV. Any wallet equipped with a layer of conductive material will block the signals from your Pay Wave cards from being read.
3.) Use the longest password possible. Many security experts advocate using special characters such as &, #, @, &, and along with upper and lower case letters and numbers to make your password more complex. This is a good idea, however, using the longest password that you can works even better. Mathematically, "TheEscanabaDailyPressNewspaper" is a much better password than "D41lypR355." Why? Each character has a certain number of options. The more characters you use, the longer it takes for a program to guess the correct combination of characters.
4.) Protect yourself on all networks. Every network that you access has the possibility of being monitored. There are a number of ways to prevent yourself from being monitored and leaving personal information behind on either a personal or private computer. The most advanced of these is a product about to come out called SurfEasy ( SurfEasy allows you to surf any network, any computer, and not leave a trace of data behind. It heavily encrypts all data and even eludes almost all corporate and government firewalls.
Protecting yourself online is your responsibility. Taking a few steps beyond the norm will make you nearly identity theft proof.
Bryan J. Sebeck
Canton, Mich.

Monday, September 12, 2011

30 Day Blog Challenge: Day 12

If you haven't noticed, I've taken the easy road out of the challenge for the past few days.  Today, I'm going to attempt to make up for it.  Many people have said that you can learn a lot about a woman by looking at what's in her purse.  To a lesser degree, the same statement is true about men as well.  You can learn quite a bit about a guy by what he carries in his wallet.  Since I never leave the house without mine, it seems this is a perfect time to show you what's in my wallet.

 This is my wallet.  It doesn't look all that special does it?  It's a basic black billfold...with a secret.  This wallet is actually a Faraday cage.  My wallet has a thin layer of conductive metal inside which, when closed, blocks RFID tag signals from escaping.  Why would I want a wallet that does that?  Check out my letter to the editor of my hometown paper that was published today.

Of course, as is standard in any modern person's wallet, I've got credit and debit cards.  Don't bother trying to steal my numbers, they're blurred out.  First is the Amazon Rewards Credit Card, prefect for me, or anybody else who reads at all.  You get 3 points for any purchase, 2 points for food and gas, and one point for everything else.  The newest advantage of the card is that (when paying with your card), you can redeem points for any amount directly on the website.  No longer do you have to wait until you have enough points to redeem for the $25 gift certificate.  Next is a generic giant evil bank Visa, which was the first credit card that I had and is kept around only in case of emergencies and to lower my credit utilization rate.  Lastly is the debit card that ties to the best checking account in the country.  The Schwab Investor Checking Account has been voted the best account in the country for many years running.  Not only is it free and actually pays interest, but you also get free checks and (here's the best part) you get reimbursed for all ATM fees anyplace.  They don't just reimburse you their fees and up to a certain limit.  You are reimbursed for the ATM fees charged by the other bank as well, with no limit.  This means that you can use any ATM anyplace you go, at any time and not worry about the fees.

 Here we've got my driver's license, my work ID, my work driver's license (yes, a special license to drive a bicycle indoors), and an old picture of my niece.  I have newer digital pictures of my Mereth, but haven't had them printed to put in my wallet.

 We finish up with both the most common and most uncommon things that I carry.  There's a small amount of cash (I pay for pretty much everything on my Amazon card), Jordan Harbinger's business card (for any guy I meet who is in desperate need of Jordan's help), and a credit card sized multi toolThis little multi tool is the most useful thing around.  Of course the little tiny hex adjusters and "compass" are useless along with the key ring attachment, but you've got a bottle opener, can opener, cutting blade, flat head screwdriver, and little saw.  I can't tell you how many times this thing has come in handy.  Also, since the Faraday cage works in both directions (keeps waves in as well as out), you can theoretically carry this card through airport security without any issues.  I haven't tried this, but it would theoretically work.

There you go.  Not only have I given you a peek in my wallet, but I've also shared some of my favorite financial accounts, a great little tool to have on hand, and a way to both protect yourself from identity theft and thwart the TSA*.

* Again, I have never attempted to carry the multi tool through airport security.  If you attempt to do so, you do so at your own risk.  Knowingly carrying the multi tool through security is a crime and you assume all risks associated with attempting to do so.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

30 Day Blog Challenge: Day 11

Lots of people try to make themselves sound extra intelligent or benevolent or whatever other characteristic that they have but want to amplify when they give you their favorite quote.  They do things like quote Ghandi when they know next to nothing about him.  It's pretty easy to see through that kind of thing.  That's part of the reason why I'm just going to throw my favorite quote out there.  The other reason is that my quote is awesome.
"The way I see it, every life is a pile of good things and bad things. The good things don’t always soften the bad things, but vice versa the bad things don’t always spoil the good things and make them unimportant" - The Doctor
This line appears towards the end of the Vincent and The Doctor episode of Doctor Who from Season 5.  I won't give the ending of the episode away because it doesn't really impact the quote at all.  It's really a great way to look at life, and is rather true when you start looking at things other than just life in the whole.  Take politics for example.  I don't think that George W. Bush was a very good President, but it's hard to say that he was worse than Bill Clinton.  Why?  Both did their good things and bad things, but they're in two separate piles.  You can't really compare the size of the piles, or even the weight.  You just have to take the good as the good and the bad as the bad.  Otherwise, you start getting into really tricky situations, like how much funding for public education do you have to give to make up for limiting a woman's constitutional access to abortions?   

Saturday, September 10, 2011

30 Day Blog Challenge: Day 10

I'm taking another cop out today.  I'm supposed to talk about something that I'm afraid of, but the longer that I go in life, and the more that I actually come into situations where I face what I used to think of as "fears", the more that I realize that I'm not actually afraid of them.  I suppose that the best way to look at it is "first you face the thing that you're afraid of, then you gain the courage to do it."  I'm pretty sure that's a quote from someplace, but I don't know where it's from. 

30 Day Blog Challenge: Day 9

Yeah, I realize that I didn't technically post yesterday like I should have.  However, I'm pulling a blogger's version of the "Double Irish, Dutch Sandwich", especially because yesterday's topic was super lame.  Yes, I am posting a favorite picture of my best friend, but since the picture has already been posted (by me) elsewhere on the internet, I'm still obeying the rules of the Blog Challenge.  Tricky, but I'm calling it legal.
 This is my best friend (and Best Man) Ben handing me the rings during the wedding.  I never realized just how much taller than me he is until I see a picture of it.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

30 Day Blog Challenge: Day 8

For almost everybody who grew up in the UP, there's one thing in common: we didn't have a lot of extra money around.  As a result, most Yoopers don't do a lot of traveling.  I've been out of the country twice, both times in Canada, and not for long.  Even within the US, there's not much traveling that goes on.

That being said, I have visited several places that I've enjoyed.  The most enjoyable of these is Colorado.  There's just something about that state that I love.  I think it's because it's got most of the great parts about the UP, without the downsides.  There are mountains, woods, cold and snowy weather, unreasonably nice people, the works.  But, you get this along with even more good beer, the ability to shop at a mall with more than four stores, and the benefits of a big city not too far away.  I've only been to Denver twice, but every second has been enjoyable.  

But if there's one place I'd like to visit, it's Scotland.  I've made it well known that I'm a Scottish lad.  My mother was born a Morrison and it's one of the few parts of my heritage that we actually know, so I embrace it.  The Morrison clan comes from the northern section of the Isle of Lewis, off the northwest coast of Scotland.  My particular group of Morrisons, the Morrisons of Ness, once had a stronghold at Dùn Èistean.  I'd love to visit my clan's land, and walk across the site at Dùn Èistean where my ancestors once walked.  I'm one of believes that who we are now is much more important and who we once where, but when you know so little about your history, you hold on to everything that you do know for dear life.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

30 Day Blog Challege: Day 7

Generally, I try to be a pretty happy guy.  The idea of doing an entire blog post about things that make me happy, then, is somewhat baffling.  How do I even begin to narrow things down?  I can be typical and cheesy and talk about my wife, I can show my inner child and talk about Legos, I can be a semi-typical guy and talk about amazing beer, I can do any number of things.  Today, however, I think I'll just prove a point.  Instead of going into depth and trying to explain why something makes me happy or analyze the exact impacts on my mood, I'm going to start typing a list of things that make me happy as they come to mind.  Perhaps this will give some insight into my thought process or some sort of deep revelation about me.  I need to start someplace, so I'll begin with what's in my right hand.

1. Really great micro-brew beer.  Currently drinking Detroit Export from the Detroit Brewing Company.
2. A hot bowl full of homemade spicy chili.
3. The feeling of warm, clean laundry.
4.  A chair that I can sit in all day and not have it go uncomfortable.
5. My wife's smile (I have to be a bit cheesy)
6. Cheese.
7. British humour (Humor is funnier with an extra u, if you weren't aware).
8. Sunsets
9. Sun beams on a cold day.
10.  My cats.
11.  The feeling just as you close your eyes for the night and all of life's troubles melt away and dreams set in.
12.  Legos
13. Waking up on a lazy Saturday morning to my cat doing his best beard impression
14. Crisp autumn mornings
13. Pumpkin (there's nothing jollier than a field full of pumpkins)
14. Naps.
15. Making people laugh.
16. Spending time with friends, drinking and talking about life.
17. Making kilts. 
18. Making people's dreams come true.
19.  The look your boss gives you when he gives you a task and you tell him that it's already done.
20.  Knowing that changes I make to cars at work help to make cars better for our customers.
21.  Sex. 
22.  Hot showers.
23.  Hot chocolate.
24.  Hot tea.
25.  Finishing a good book.
26.  Starting a good book.
27.  Holding a baby.
28.  Giving a baby back to it's mother.
29.  The smell of good leather.
30.  Fresh coffee.
31.  Beating a video game.
32.  Helping people.
33.  Being smarter than somebody.
34.  Tossing my kitten onto the bed.
35.  Knowing that my children will one day sleep holding the same stuffed bunny that I did as a baby.
36.  Doctor Who
37.  Finding new and great restaurants.
38.  Getting compliments.
39.  Cooking.
40.  Getting tattoos.
41.  Looking better in women's shoes than the women who own them.
42.  Being comfortable enough in my sexuality to say the previous comment.
43.  Fighting for what's right in the world.
44.  Making a fool of myself with other nerds.
45.  The sound of hockey skates on ice.
46.  The smell and feel of a hockey arena.
47.  311 concerts.
48.  When my mother gives me the "that's my boy" look.
49.  Teaching people.
50.  Finishing a project

With that, I think I've run out of motivation to keep typing things that make me happy.  Yes, I realize that I've kind of copped out on this post.  There's a short list of topics in the challenge that I find exceedingly difficult and may or may not cop out on.  Today, I'm tired, full, and feeling a little lazy, so you get a cop out.  Tomorrow, I promise a completely legit post.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

30 Day Blog Challenge: Day 6

I try to keep things reasonably light around here because nobody likes someone who focuses on the negative.  Actually, that's not true.  We have a love/hate relationship with that type of person.  Negative people fall into one of two groups, comedians (who we love), and everybody else (who we hate).  Today, however, I get to take a break from being positive.

It's not very often that I rant in public spaces (aside from letters to the editor of small down papers), but I'm going to rant a bit for you. 

I have two major pet peeves, but I'm only going to comment on one of them today.  There are few things worse in the world than a crappy driver.  Of course, living in the Detroit area, I'm rather screwed when it comes to avoiding them.  It's almost impossible to put together a flowing, coherent post that covers all of the idiotic things people do while driving, so I'm just going to list and elaborate.

1.)  Merging.  There's a sign that's in common usage in the US.  I have a feeling that there are similar versions across the world.  That sign looks like this:
Do you know what this sign means?  It means that the right lane is ending, so get your stupid arse over into the left lane.  It does not mean "oh, I should floor it, and then nearly kill myself and the people in two other vehicles when I pull into the other lane without signaling or checking my blind spot because I absolutely have to be a half dozen cars further ahead."  If you refuse to obey this sign, it's not my job to let you in, so when you try to cut me off and I don't let you, you don't get to yell and curse at me because I didn't let you in.  I didn't run you off of the road.  You ran yourself off of it.  It's not my job to let you in, it's your job to merge, motherfraker.

2.)  Tailgating.  Tailgating is not just something that people who don't have tickets to football games do, it's a crime.

Mythbusters has proven that riding my arse on the road doesn't get you significantly better gas mileage.  I don't care if you're late.  A lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part.  If I'm on a freeway and already going 5 over, back the frak off.  When you see my brake lights go on for just a moment, it means that if you try that shit again, I'll slam on my brakes and sue your inbred arse.  If you want to drive at an unsafe speed and get yourself killed, more power to you.  However, don't cry like a little baby when I don't speed up just because you think you're a NASCAR driver.

3.)  Parking.  Every car gets one spot to park in.  How fraking hard is that to understand.  Park between the lines, dipshit.  

Shit like this is unacceptable.  I don't care how much in a hurry you're in, or who you think you are, you get one fraking spot.  If you pull shit like this and park in my spot as well as your own, I'm not responsible for any damage that your vehicle incurs because you park your car like a blind person.
Your car is not nice enough to take up two spots, especially if you drive a Ferrari and are stupid enough to buy the convertible version.  I can deal with your thinking that your car is the shit and taking up two spots if you do it out in the middle of fraking nowhere and aren't in anybody's way.  Seriously though, if you can afford a Ferrari, you can afford a damn GPS to guide you to the center of a parking spot.

There is, however, one exception to the parking rule.  If you have a long trailer behind your truck or a bus sized motorhome, you're allowed to do a pull through and take up two spots.  There's nothing you can do about that.  However, 99% of you twat waffles need to learn how to park. 

Remember people, driving is not a right.  It's a privilege.  If I could do a better job at driving when I was six years old than you can now, you should just give up and buy your arse a bus pass.  The moral of the story is this: stay in your own damn lane, hang up the fraking phone, stop texting your bff, and drive.  If you don't, get in a wreck, and die, I will say "looks like natural selection is at work" and have a good laugh.


Monday, September 5, 2011

30 Day Blog Challenge: Day 5

Anybody who's known me for more than five minutes knows that I can't be presented with a topic like what song inspires me without using a song from my favorite band of all time, 311.  See, I've been a huge fan of 311 since I was in about the 4th grade.  This was right about the time that Transistor and Down had videos on MTV (yes back when MTV actually played videos) and every day before I went to school, I would watch a few videos, and 311 would be played every single day.

I had quite a bit of trouble deciding which song to use since I find many of them very inspiring.  Do I go for the typical (if somewhat depressing) Beyond the Grey Sky?  What about the iconic Amber?  Nope.  I'm going to go a different route.  311's 2009 album Uplifter couldn't have a better name.  Every song on the album makes you feel good for one reason or another.  Of the songs on the album, one of my favorites is It's Alright.  Here's the lyrics for your enjoyment:

Stay with me
Here with me
Right in this instant
Not in the distance
When your head is off in future time
That’s the place when things get out of line
Taking in this moment
Your time is so well spent
It’s alright
Wherever you are right now
I tell you it’s alright
That’s where you’re supposed to be now
Stay with me
Here with me
Right in this instant
Not in the distance
Standing at a crossroads, I was at a loss those
Temporary moments pleasures that are stolen
Here in the present
Your time is so well spent
It’s alright
Wherever you are right now
I tell you it’s alright
That’s where you’re supposed to be now
That’s where you’re supposed to be now
A song, one song, could end a war, could end the war
A song, one song, could end a war, could end the war
(Around we go, around we go)
A song, one song, could end a war, could end the war
(Around we go, around we go)
It’s alright
Wherever you are right now
I tell you it’s alright
That’s where you’re supposed to be now
It’s alright
Wherever you are right now
I tell you it’s alright
That’s where you’re supposed to be now
That’s where you’re supposed to be now
No matter what type of mood that you're in, there's really no more positive message to hear than "whatever you are, wherever you are, it's alright, because you're exactly where you're supposed to be".  

I can't simply tell you that this song is inspiring or motivating.  It wouldn't do 311 justice.  Everything the band does about having a great time, being the best person that you can be, and generally being awesome.  The entire idea of 311 is that human beings are all one people, one nation, one society, and that it is our unity that brings out the best of people, the best of situations, and the best of everything. 

30 Day Blog Challenge: Day 4

So I initially wrote this post up last night, and hit post right before heading to bed.  I woke up this morning, to find that it hadn't been posted.  Note to self, wait until you receive the confirmation before closing the computer.

I've mentioned before that my parents are generally pretty amazing people, but they're all occasionally infuriating.  Then again, isn't that what parents are for?  The reality is that if it weren't both for there positives and negatives, I wouldn't be who I am today.  I'm going to try and stay positive in this post but also mention one or two of their negatives (that they're already well aware of) that have made a big impact on my personality.

Let me start with my dad.  He was born and raised in Gladstone, just like I was.  In fact, he grew up just few minute walk away from where I did.  The problem with this is that he knew everybody in town.  As a child, I can't describe how frustrating it is to be unable to go anyplace without being seen by somebody who knows your parents and won't hesitate to let them know if you get out of line.  

My dad's a retired teacher.  But to say that's all he did would be far from the truth.  He taught History and Government in one of the smallest school districts in the Upper Peninsula.  The average graduating class was about 12 students.  Having a teacher parent has a major impact on kids.  In our house, any grade less than an A- was considered bad, and anything less than a B got you grounded. This pressure to perform stays with me today.  I refuse to accept just doing "ok" as being acceptable.  From every failure, you can learn, and when you apply that knowledge to the process the next time around, you only come one step closer to success.

This continual drive to do my best and constantly improve isn't all that I picked up from my dad.  My dad kind of fails at eating.  I suppose that a nicer way to put it is that he's exceptionally picky.  He'd tell you that he knows what he likes.  Growing up, we never really strayed from a pretty set list of dishes for dinner, and a very set list of places that we occasionally ate out at.  The result was that most of my culinary adventurism didn't develop until well after I left the house.  Thankfully, my wife is still expanding my food borders and refuses to give up on me.  I will, however, give my dad some credit in this department.  In recent years, he's gotten much better about being picky and trying new things.

My mother was born and mostly raised in Southeast Michigan.  Her family moved to Escanaba when she was in high school.  For her, this was a big change, because not only was it her first time living in a more rural area, but it was also her first time in public school.  See, she spent all of here elementary and middle school years attending Catholic schools.  This led to one of the most interesting and trying events in my life.  

Since she was raised Catholic, my mom felt that it was best for me to attend the classes and events necessary to be confirmed Catholic.  However, she forgot that, being the son of a teacher, I was also taught to not accept things as the truth just because I'm told they are.  The people who taught the classes would get rather frustrated when they would try to teach something about the religion and I would basically say "Why do I have any reason to believe this is true?" and their only response was "Because this is what the Bible teaches us is true."  This very quickly devolved into the circular argument that is common amongst Christians of "I believe in God because the Bible says it's true and I believe in the Bible because God says it's true."

Before you could be confirmed in the church, you had to go through an interview process.  I know that the priest from the church was there, and I seem to remember that the Bishop came down from Marquette for this as well.  We were asked all kinds of questions.  My mother attempted to convince me to just tell them what they wanted to hear.  I was in my rebellious stage at this point, so that wasn't going to happen.  It wasn't that I was rude or mean to the poor guys who had to interview me, I just told the truth.  They asked my opinion on homosexuality.  Really?  I'm not sure how they didn't see this one coming.  I politely responded that what two people do in their bedroom is none of anybody else's business and that the only things that matters in a relationship is that the people involved in it love and care for one another and that they treat each other with the dignity and respect that they deserve.  Needless to say, they refused to confirm me.

I can't really say that I blame my mom for pushing me to be confirmed, though.  Actually, it's one of the better things to happen to me.  Dealing with a religion that allows Earthly beings to judge one another when their Big Book specifically states that only their God is allowed to do so forced me to look elsewhere and to learn what else is out there, unlike the hundreds of thousands of people in the US alone who follow a particular religion simply because they were brought up in it.  This whole thing turned on my love of learning about what people believe, why, how it impacts their daily life, and how society as a whole can benefit from it.

In the end, I credit my Catholic mother for my apathetic/atheist beliefs and my discovering that, while the religions of the world all have good intentions, society as a whole would be far better off if we believed not in one particular religion, but took the positive tenants from each and left the negative by the side of the road.  I think that this is one of the biggest reasons that I can get along with just about anybody that I meet.  I may not believe in the specifics of anybody's religion, but I recognize and respect the good that they're trying to do.