Mistaken identity and music theory

Cara recently acquired Arcade Fire's Funeral, and, after three or four listens, I discovered, to my great surprise, that I liked it. A lot.

But I thought I didn't like Arcade Fire. At all. Interesting.

I commented to Cara on enjoying the very driving feel of a few songs, and found myself stuck in a teachable moment. You see, boys and girls, it seems the bits that I really like in "Neighborhoods 1 - Tunnels" and "Rebellion (Lies)" is called a Mannheim roller, "an extended crescendo passage typically having a rising melodic line over an ostinato [repeated] bass line". Yes, yes, I'm a bombastic sap. Now, excuse me, I've got some Shostakovich to listen to.

Anyways, it later struck me just why I thought I didn't like Arcade Fire. It seems I was mistaking them for someone else. Um. Sorry, guys.

Blueberry season!

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It's blueberry season, apparently until the end of August. We like Dexter Blueberry Farm - not organic, but local and close. (Plus, it's where my mom took us several times a summer when I was little, so it's tradition.) I picked about 9 pounds.

Blueberries are $1.35 / lb at the farm. I weighed some out; they're about 3 cups / lb, making a dry pint about $0.90. Blueberries at the store are about $4/pint. Wow.

Now, were you to think like an economist, and figure out how much time I spend picking said blueberries, and driving to the farm and back, and declare that my picking time costs me the same hourly rate as my working time, then this pint costs about $5.75, before per mile costs are calculated. Which is why I avoid thinking like an economist - and also why we take friends along. With Kelli & Michael in tow, the mileage costs are cut in half from what we pay alone, and the time expenditure has entertainment value, meaning the cost of my time is priced at the opportunity cost of the fun I could be having elsewhere, and, ehhhh, let's just say it all equals out, my time cost is zero, meaning the cost of the blueberries is equal to the price of the blueberries plus mileage costs / pickers. I don't care for economist pedantry anyways, so this method is fine by me.

Dry.

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It's been dry. Dry dry dry. (I type this while it is raining, but still - this may be the first good, prolonged, soaking rain, rather than flash downpour, we've had in months. Here's hoping.)

The Ann Arbor News says that area farmers are calling this the driest summer in living memory - ouch. "In southeast Michigan - where sweet and feed corn, soybeans, wheat and hay are common field crops - precipitation totals for June and July aren't much different than normal. But because the rain has come in short, heavy bursts followed by long, dry periods, it's done little good for growers anxiously checking their plants and weather reports."

Freep considers Michigan mergers

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I've long counted "too many local governments" among Michigan's issues - balkanization not only prevents us from reacting effectively and efficiently to new challenges, but also leads to needless competition and duplication of effort. Witness, for example, Ypsilanti Township's new master plan, which discusses the idea of creating a "town center", as if it hasn't had such a thing for 150 years now, a mere two miles north of where the plan proposes one. (This is hardly a unique case - it seems every township in Michigan is looking to misapply the memes of smart growth, new urbanism, and the "creative class" in a cargo cult effort to build artificial "town centers" from whole cloth. These efforts typically both fail to build the kind of truly attractive downtowns of an organically grown community - compare Cherry Hill Village to Chelsea - while also encroaching further on the "rural feel" that township residents often say they value. While is would be more to their interest to combine efforts with adjoining cities, to ensure that they can offer both a real, living center as well as preserving the open space and agricultural areas of the outer edges of the Twps, the artificial blind spots of jurisdiction forbid this.)

Today's Freep dedicates an impressive amount of space to the issue, focusing on the Royal Oak/Ferndale cluster of communities - 10 local governments within the a survey township's 36 square mile confines. Worth a read, now that I've primed you with my opinions on the issue.

"Everyone needs underpants"

"Creators-of-all-things-clever Linette Lao and Mark Maynard" get some serious love from the Ann Arbor News' Ypsilanti Community News today: Artists up the ante for Ypsilanti with panty.

I'm hear the picture is good, too, if you have the dead tree version of the free paper. My part of the neighborhood seems to have been totally redlined by the News, ever since we complained about their practice of tossing papers onto the lawn of obviously vacant houses where the past 4 months of papers were still sitting in moldering heaps on the lawn. (Fortunately, Mark's showing an appropriate amount of pride, posting the front-page pic to his site.)

Traveling in the height of c. 1910 luxury!

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We've been hoping to take a trip to Montana in the next couple of months, once Cara is free of classes for more than a week at a time. Plane tickets don't seem to be getting below about $550/ea, though, and, since N'western is just about the only way to get there, there's no guarantee our flight would actually go anyways.

So I decided to look into Amtrak. I've taken Amtrak to MT and back before, and it's not a bad trip - really, more relaxing than the same trip by car, and much more comfortable than flying (the fact that it takes 32 hours by train, compared to 8-10 flying, makes the two modes about equal in my book, assuming I'm planning a decent vacation). One Amtrak trip was, in fact, where I met my friend Kenzi - nothing like sharing a seat for the 8 hour Mini-no-place to Chicago stretch with someone to get a feel for whether or not they are a psycho killer. (My vote: not, hence my first foray into blogging activism, five years ago now.)

Look, ma, I'm famous!

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I've been invited to be Metromode's guest blogger, starting tomorrow and running for a week. I'm not sure I'm quite as awesome as, say, Conan Smith, but I'll do my best.

I'll also cross-post here, since Metromode doesn't allow comments.

Edit: Actually, looks like they do now allow commenting on guest blogs, starting with mine. What a trendsetter.

Post one: Ypsivangelizing

gettingDowntowny.

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getDowntown is Ann Arbor's alt-commuting program, running Curb Your Car Month and administering the go!pass program, among other things. Program Director Erica is leaving the country in a few weeks, so her position came up for grabs recently.

And, well, I couldn't help myself. This is, after all, essentially the job description that got me into planning, and I've been lusting after Erica's job since I knew it existed, about six years ago. Rumor has it I got the job. The rumor mill is apparently both (a) slow and (b) wrong, though - I know a week and a half ago that it took somebody like Nancy Shore to beat me out. Nancy is, until now, SOS Community Relations Coordinator (and the party responsible for the SOS News and Views blog), and also has served on AATA's Board of Directors. Congratulations, Nancy!

NPR forgets about zoning.

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Last night's installment of the Summer Documentary Series on Michigan Radio was on "The Sprawling of America", produced by the Great Lakes Radio Consortium's The Environment Report. I was glad to see them focus on the topic, until they unquestioningly repeated the fallacy that density - revitalizing city centers and urban neighborhoods - is a violation of property rights. The popular idea that sprawl is the product of a free market, "What People Want", is probably the single biggest mistake preventing us from either effectively addressing sprawl or effectively revitalizing our cities.

Hipster training continues

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Last night, at long last, I finally saw Great Lakes Myth Society at the Elbow Room, and they were every bit as amazing as Dale has assured me they would be. Fan for life: check. (Not that there was any doubt - a highly talented folk/rock group signing about Michigan? Yeah, sign me up.)

I was also pretty happy with one of their openers, Minor Planets, who present a pretty enjoyable power pop. They need to brush up on their showmanship to truly support a group like GLMS, though. I know the whole shoegazing thing is hip, and half the point of indie rock is that it's safe for geeky introverts (like myself) to get up on stage and play their piece without ever looking at the audience, but, really, kids: you're good at what you do - feel free to get a little more attitude about it.