Michigan's local governments: a crucial part of our pre-industrial economic well-being!

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I remain convinced that the fragmented nature of Michigan's local governments is a handicap to our economic wellbeing, and that overhauling this artifact of a pre-industrial society is a necessary part of pulling us out of our current rut. The most important current function of our fragmented local governments is to decrease our social well-being and economic benefit. Since Google is currently the hip thing to discuss Michigan's economy around, I'll use that as an example - ArborUpdate's discussion of the A2 City Council's free parking offer provides a convenient case study.

Okay, now it's actually 2007

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The New Year is a more hazy concept for me than for most, I think, due to my acknowledging the winter solstice as an ending/beginning mark, and my birthday being wedged in there. Clustered in with the cultural meanings of new beginnings attached to Christmas and New Year's, this means I end up with a ten-day transitional period where I haven't quite decided whether a new year has started yet or not. The following is therefore a loosely organized braindump of things I've been thinking about for the last week:

2006 was notable for the number of growed-up milestones it included:

  • I finished that last grad school project in February and formally graduated in April.

The Christmas news vacuum

I'm gathering that Gerald Ford died?

Or, at least, I'm guessing that's why yesterday's A2 News has 10 articles about him. I was going to comment on the fact that MarkMaynard.com is usually a reliable source for celebrity deaths, but was apparently too focused on James Brown to mention Ford. On second look, I note that Ford merits a passing reference between the second mention of James Brown and drowning polary bears.

"Country and city"

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[t]here is a deeper, more substantial challenge that an encounter with agrarians would pose for New Urbanists: namely, to come to terms with the radical economic and cultural changes implied in a thoroughgoing return to traditional neighborhood design. Agrarians, we think, are more cognizant of what they are asking people to surrender - indeed that they are asking them to surrender something. Contrary to popular belief, it is not possible to have it all: to pay less for our food than it is worth and to preserve small-scale agriculture at the same time. Agrarians have called us to confront this choice and others like it. They have argued that what we would surrender to preserve local communities is comparatively unimportant. But they have not evaded the implications of their work: that Americans should pay more for the food they buy, and grow some for themselves; that people should be less "mobile"; that smart people should spend their intelligence on small, unglamorous problems in small, unglamorous places; that we should be slow to adopt technological innovations; that people should house their aging parents rather than commit them to the care of institutions.

Tortured ROI Calculations: hot water insulation edition

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In general, I believe it's worth utilizing materials to reduce energy consumption - both are, of course, subsidized heavily in our economy, but materials are much easier to reuse, salvage, or recycle in the future. (Note my statement of utilizing materials, as opposed to using (up) energy.)

With this in mind, and an annoyance at how quickly the hot water turns cold if I step away from the dishes for just a few minutes, I decided to look into insulating my hot water pipes.

Epazote is magical!

Deborah Madison turned us on to the magic of epazote, "the bean herb". This was not, mind you, for its various medicinal uses, which most significantly include the treatment of intestinal hookworm (yum), but because it makes cooking tasty beans relatively fast and nigh on idiot-proof. Not only is it tasty, in a savory/tangy sort of way, but it eliminates the soaking step and speeds up cooking, and also makes beans easier to digest! Amazing!

The basic recipe, known to work well with both black beans and pintos:

Warmongers wanted

I've decided that I need new friends. My old friends are all too busy being grad students at the end of their semesters, or being in Atlanta on work, or don't like to play several-hour-long wargames. Cara will happily play Ticket to Ride, and two players is a number well on its way to to critical mass for that game, but Axis & Allies? Civilization? Diplomacy? Titan? PanzerBlitz? Any other Avalon Hill bookcase game? Or anything at all with more than four pages of rules? No such luck. Even the ones that are perfectly playable with two players I have difficulty rustling people up for.

Show your Statriotism - Wear Mittens and Drink Michigan Beer.

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What better birthday present? Mittenfest, Corner Brewery, December 23.

My list of must-see performers is short, based not on disliking the rest but on my own woeful lack of "cred" (read: having seen them before): Fred Thomas, Chris Bathgate, Canada.

I'll note that "Need Based Paint" continues to be one of the best band names I've heard in quite some time. (Though still well behind "Fuck Yeah and the Rock 'n' Rolls", of course...)

MI Legislature RSS feed!

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Wow! Wow wow wow!

While looking up the legislature mentioned in the DetNews imposing a permanent moratorium on new highway billboards (and trade in three existing billboards for one new one), I discovered the Michigan Legislature's Bill Update RSS Feed - updated every ten minutes while leg. is in session with status on bills.

So many forms of geekery in one. I can't begin to express my glee.

Two days, 40+ local artists, 9000 gallons of beer.

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In case you hadn't heard,

The second Shadow Art Fair is taking place tonight, December 1 (8-12pm) and tomorrow, December 2 (11am-8pm), at the Corner Brewery. Be there. It's worth not doing whatever lame thing you were planning on doing this weekend.