dingell the dinosaur

I hate it when cool and/or important things happen right under my nose that I don’t even know about… I’m not sure how it happened, but there was apparently a big protest outside Congressman Dingell’s office here in Ypsi a few days ago. I can’t really tell from the photo montage, but it looks like there might have been as many as a dozen people outside of his office, demanding that he take a more active leadership role with regard to global warming. They even had someone in what looks like a homemade dinosaur costume. Here’s the message from MoveOn that alerted me to it.

We wanted to fill you in on the latest from our campaign to push Rep. John Dingell to move on the climate crisis.

Congressman Dingell has a long history of leading on many issues. But he’s one of the key people holding up attempts to increase fuel efficiency in our cars–despite our looming climate crisis and studies that show a fuel efficient industry would create more jobs. Things came to a head this week when key legislation to stop global warming was held up in the committee Dingell chairs.

Given the urgency of the situation, MoveOn members in your district and around the country sprang into action. First, we supported a radio ad that used humor to make the point that Dingell’s energy views were stuck in the past.

Then, MoveOn members rallied at Rep. Dingell’s office on Wednesday to deliver the message in person. With dinosaur balloons and a member in a dinosaur suit to indicate how out of date Rep. Dingell’s stance is, we delivered a letter asking the Congressman to lead by including fuel efficiency and support for clean alternatives in the final bill.

At the office, our members came face to face with United Auto Workers who had turned out to support Rep. Dingell’s stance against fuel economy. The two groups talked about their differences and made plans to get together in the future. MoveOn members were loud and clear that good environmental protections can mean more jobs, and we want both. Here’s what MoveOn folks had to say:

“If there had been gas efficiency standards enacted in the ’70s,” said [MoveOn member] Jane Michener, “the auto industry would be in great shape, and the union members wouldn’t be losing their jobs to Toyota.”

I don’t know that one thing can be attributed to the other, but on Wednesday, following this protest, Dingell announced that he supported legislation that would reduce greenhouse gases by up to 80% by 2050. It’s not much, but at least it’s a first step in the right direction… According to MoveOn, this demonstration was carried out by an Ypsilantian by the name of Bob Brothers. If you know him, pat him on the back, buy him a beer, or give him a big, wet, sloppy kiss on the lips. (Ask him which he would prefer first.)

Posted in Alternative Energy | 10 Comments

how much to pay the babysitter

The second most popular search that brings people to this site, after — I’m ashamed to say – “ball shaving tutorial,” is some variation of “how much should babysitters get paid.” (I pray to God the two aren’t connected in any way.) You see, I made the mistake a year or so ago of posting something on that subject of babysitter pay, and apparently it’s one of the only things that comes up when the question is put to Google… Anyway, lately we’ve been inundated by girls wanting to know how much they should charge, and some of us have been having a bit of fun at their expense in the comments section. The best comment so far came from Ol’ East Cross today. Here’s his contribution to the unfolding dialogue:

The NABSW industry standard follows the basic formula:

“To determine the standard hourly rate for babysitting, divide the number of children being cared for by the average age of children and multiply the result by the age of the babysitter.”

In your case, that’s 2 \ 3 = .67 x 12 = $8.04 per hour.

After you’ve logged 100 hours of babysitting, the NABSW recommends increasing your rates by .067 percent and by .08 percent for each 100 hours after that. I’ve got a friend who’s 42 and has been babysitting since she was 11. She watches 3 kids whose average age is 2.5 and now gets paid $73 an hour. She works one night a week, two at the most, and is pretty much a total stoner the rest of the time. Just be careful not to get sucked in by the easy money.

I love the thought that 12 year old Kelly is out there somewhere in Wisconsin right now explaining to a couple the logic behind her complicated fee structure… Of course, there are probably much funnier conversations taking place with young women over fees right now, here in Ypsi, just a few feet from where I sit typing this.

Posted in Observations | 6 Comments

a few things for you, my invisible internet friends

Two quotes to think about tonight. The first comes from billionaire investor Warren Buffet. The second comes from Dana Gioia, the head of the National Endowment for the Arts.

Here’s a clip from the “Money” article with the Buffet quote:

Presidential hopeful Hillary Rodham Clinton was all ears at a fundraiser Tuesday evening when famed billionaire investor Warren Buffett suggested ramping up the tax code on big businesses and the super rich….

Buffett said he makes $46 million a year in income and is only taxed at a 17.7 percent rate on his federal income taxes. By contrast, those who work for him, and make considerably less, pay on average about 32.9 percent in taxes – with the highest rate being 39.7 percent.

To emphasize his point, Buffett offered $1 million to the audience member who could show that one of the nation’s wealthiest individuals pays a higher tax rate than one of their subordinates.

“I’m willing to bet anyone in this room $1 million that those rates are less than the secretary has to pay,” said Buffett…

The article didn’t mention it, but I’m pretty sure Mr. Buffet still has his money… And, he’s right about the tax code. The rich should be taxed more, especially on inherited wealth.

And the following is an excerpt from Dana Gioia’s commencement speech at Stanford (by way of Metafilter):

…There is an experiment I’d love to conduct. I’d like to survey a cross-section of Americans and ask them how many active NBA players, Major League Baseball players, and American Idol finalists they can name.

Then I’d ask them how many living American poets, playwrights, painters, sculptors, architects, classical musicians, conductors, and composers they can name.

I’d even like to ask how many living American scientists or social thinkers they can name.

Fifty years ago, I suspect that along with Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, and Sandy Koufax, most Americans could have named, at the very least, Robert Frost, Carl Sandburg, Arthur Miller, Thornton Wilder, Georgia O’Keeffe, Leonard Bernstein, Leontyne Price, and Frank Lloyd Wright. Not to mention scientists and thinkers like Linus Pauling, Jonas Salk, Rachel Carson, Margaret Mead, and especially Dr. Alfred Kinsey.

I don’t think that Americans were smarter then, but American culture was. Even the mass media placed a greater emphasis on presenting a broad range of human achievement…

Gioia’s right, of course. The folks on Metafilter were ripping his argument apart, and I think they make good points, but I think it’s hard to deny that pop culture has thrown art, generally speaking, overboard to make more room for celebrity worship. Even when I was young, the talk shows would have on the likes of Norman Mailer and Truman Capote. Andy Warhol probably wouldn’t even make it these days.

And, if you’re still looking for something to read when you’re done with those, you might want to check out this piece in today’s “Washigton Post” on how Cheney is able to keep raping the environment without leaving any DNA behind. Or, if reading’s not your thing, how about some video of Elizabeth Edwards trying to be tactful with Anne Coulter after the adam-appled queen of American hate speech said that her husband, presidential hopeful John Edwards, should be killed in a terrorist attack.

Posted in Other | 18 Comments

on smelling like a wet feral dog, and reading george saunders

I made the mistake of washing the dog’s bed with a few of my shirts last night. I made the additional mistake of wearing one of those shirts to work today, on one of the hottest days on record. It smelled fine when I put it on — I promise – but with each micro-liter of sweat that my fleshy body secreted, another plume of wet dog stink rose up from me like a mushroom cloud. I cannot even begin to express to you how extremely powerful and noxious it was. I’m not particularly upset by odors generally (I slow down my car to drink in the smells of skunk and manure) and it made me want to tear off my clothes and rip at my moist, warm flesh with the wire brush I use to clean my bar-b-que gril. So, my whole day was spent avoiding people in the hallway and hoping that no one stuck in the elevator with me felt the need to projectile vomit.

I’m going to reward myself for having survived by going to bed early tonight, and reading George Saunders’ short story, “Sea Oak.” (Linette tells me that I’ll like it.) If you’re looking for something to do, and if Saunders isn’t your cup of tea, my friend Dan, the school teacher in Minneapolis, recommends reading up on Hedonics. Or then there’s the site called Third Banana that Doug Skinner just told me about. I’ve just spent the last ten minutes there, watching early comedy shorts, and I suspect, if I can’t sleep, I’ll be back later. Or, maybe I’ll just fixate on the fact that the world is ending while commiserating with the dog.

Posted in Mark's Life | 4 Comments

minor league baseball in ypsilanti

I just got back home from the first meeting of the Ypsilanti 2020 Task Force. I was going to tell you all about it, but, thanks to Steve Pierce, it’s probably not necessary. He was there, video camera in hand, so I imagine that everything will be up on his site by the end of the week. I will, however, say that I liked the direction and the energy of the group. It was nice for a change to have a positive conversation about our city and what we might be able to pull off if we work together. I was very much impressed by the other members of the group and I look forward to working with them. The problems we face are daunting, but, if tonight was any indication, I feel as though we might have a fighting chance of making it through what we’ve got ahead of us.

The brightest spot of the evening, at least for me, was the almost giddy enthusiasm we all seemed to share for the idea of a minor league baseball team taking up residence at Water Street. I’m not a big fan of professional team sports in general, but I’ve got to confess that the idea has even got me a little excited. Maybe it’s a pipe dream that we could lure a team here, but what’s life if you don’t have a dream? Maybe this is the little ray of sunshine that will keep us going through these difficult times to come.

City Councilperson Brian Robb is among those pushing the idea of a minor league franchise. (His suggestion is that we look into the Frontier League, which isn’t tied in any way to Major League Baseball.) He’s got a compelling post as to why he thinks it would work over at his site. Here, with his permission, is a clip:

…In 2006, Traverse City drew 203,574, Gateway 182,124, Washington 152,805, and Evansville 130,212, Kalamazoo 119,530, and Rockford 115,776.

There are currently two teams in the Frontier League that have suspended play in 2007. The Mid-Missouri Mavericks are building a new stadium and the Ohio Valley Redcoats are looking for a new home.

The teams in the Frontier League play 96 games, with 48 of those being at home. That’s 4,000 people a night coming to our city to eat in our restaurants and shop in our stores all summer. That’s not bad. And when you consider the old residential proposal for Water Street calls for about 1,500 new, full-time residents, it’s awesome…

Brian’s even named the team, created a logo, and reserved the URL. They’re called the Ypsilanti Liberators. (I was going to lobby for the Ypsilanti Eccentrics, but the Liberators is starting to grow on me.)

My experience with baseball is somewhat limited. Everything I know is due to the fact that I had a friend in high school who was drafted by the Atlanta Braves. I saw him play on his way up to the big leagues, and I saw him play on his way back down. I guess I should have enjoyed watching him play in major league stadiums more, but the best times I ever had watching him play were during those periods when he’d been moved down to play for the Durham Bulls, or whatever the Atlanta farm team was that played the Toledo Mud Hens. There was something very nice about going to a park and watching a hometown team play, surrounded by fans that didn’t have to go into debt to afford their tickets. Players, minus the big league egos, were out talking with kids and everyone seemed happy. Like I said, I’m not a big baseball fan, but if we could have something like that, I’d buy season tickets in a heartbeat. I might even wear a Liberators cap.

Here’s my contribution to the discussion that’s heating up…. I wonder if it might be possible for a community to pool its resources and buy into a franchise like the one that Brian’s suggesting. I wonder if shares could be sold within the community, so that it’s not just a few big investrors coming in, setting up, and reaping the profit. What if, I’m wondering, we could all do it together and everyone could share in the risk, and the reward, together? What if we could offer $10 shares so that every kid in Washtenaw County could have a piece of ownership? We’d still need some multi-million dollar investors, but wouldn’t it be cool if 1,000 of our friends and neighbors also comtributed? That idea really excites me.

And here’s another idea. Why not start a petition, getting people to sign up and say that if a team came, they’d buy season tickets? Wouldn’t investors take us a lot more seriously if we had 1,000 ready to pony up their hard-earned cash for season tickets?

Posted in Ypsilanti | 72 Comments


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