Sunday, November 29, 2009

Duluth and Back plus a football 31 Hours.

Good Evening internet-users.

About 4:30 this morning I returned home from what may the most unique trip I have ever taken. Some friends of mine were making the trip to Duluth, MN for a NCAA DII Football Quarterfinal game, and I decided to tag along for the experience.

The trip started from Allendale, MI at exactly 9:30 pm Friday night. From there were travelled to Zeeland, then South on I-96 to Chicago. Once in the Chicago metro area we kept to the outside of town, following 355 to 88, and then North on 39/90. We cut through the dark, flat emptiness that is central/upper Illinois and into Wisconsin, a state I have flown over a lot, but had never driven in. We cut through Beloit, up around Madison and past the Dells. We stopped in Eau Claire to switch drivers at 4:30 am CST. After a brief, unplanned delay we kept surging North, a little road-weary by this time.

Around 7:00 am CST, as the morning sky was beginning to lighten, we spotted the lights of Superior, Wisconsin on the horizon from our elevated vantage point. Soon, the ridge/hill that Duluth is built into came into sight. We crossed the causeway bridge and explored a little bit before catching breakfast downtown about 8am CST. A nice tailgate at the University of Minnesotta-Duluth and then the game. We beat UMD 24-10 in a great defensive effort.

About 4:30 pm CST, we pulled out of town and started back South into Wisconsin. That's when the three of us who were not driving passed out for an hour. We were pretty tired and the cold, sunny weather had exposed our weariness. As we plowed South through the Badger state, darkness fell. About 6pm CST we pulled into Eau Claire and went into town. We searched for good food in Eau Claire online and found Mogie's boasted a nice looking menu and tap list. My are they good at what they do. One of the best burgers I have ever had, including a nice craft beer. Small, quiet, old-fashioned smoke-free sports bar. Very nice work Mogie's!

Just after 7 pm CST, we got back in the car with me at the wheel. I took us down close to the Dells before someone else wanted to drive. After we got to Madison I know I fell asleep until we hit the suburbs of Chicago. I awoken to find we had missed the turn for 355, and would need to get on 294 South. We were hoping to avoid the heavier inner-ring traffic, but oh well. We rolled through Chicago metro about midnight, and re-joined I-94 into Indiana, and back into Michigan. Just before 4am EST, we pulled back into a foggy Allendale. I didn't get back to my home in GR until about 4:30 or a little after. I promptly stumbled in (on 2 hours sleep in 1.5 days) and fell into my bed.

A great roadtrip with driven undertaken mostly at night. We got out really cheap due to our schedule and not needing a hotel, but it really gives you a beating. If you have a few people who can rotate driving, it's good, esp. when you have a laptop with power connection in the car for interactive navigation. I'm not good at sleeping in a vehicle unless I am reeaally tired, so plan in advance if that sounds like you. Also plan on caffine and energy drinks.

We also almost learned the hard way that freeway speeding tickets in Wisconsin START at $200. A kind, understanding state trooper in the dark, emptiness of Northern Wisconsin just wanted to give us a reminder.

The Lakers of GVSU now face Carson-Newman (Tenn.) in an NCAA Semi-Final game this coming Saturday, Dec. 5th at 3:30 pm EST, in Allendale, MI (Lubbers Stadium). I HIGHLY encourage you to go to the game, although if you can not make the contest you can catch all the action in lovely HD live on ESPN!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

I wanted to take a minute after gorging myself on turkey, stuffing, yams, sprouts, and cranberry sauce to make sure we are all reflecting on what is really important and how blessed we truly are.

We are reminded again that there are hordes of people in our country who do not have a place to go today or stay tonight, nor do they have a meal. This is not confined to the holidays, need knows no season. With the continual economic issues, more and more families and children are in poverty in this country than ever before.

If you're reading this, it means you obviously have some shelter, and probably are well enough off to own a computer and afford the internet. That then tells me that you obviously have enough to eat.

So our career's might not be where we want them to be, or we may want a better income. We all have things we can complain about and be dissatisfied with. My point is that I think when we look at the big picture, we've got it better than we think.

My deepest wishes to you and yours this season, and I hope you are able to spend this day with loved ones. Let's remember to keep those men and women overseas who put themselves in harms way, a long way from their families, to protect us. May they experience peace today, have a good meal, and hopefully return home safely for good soon.

God Bless-
P. James

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Good People, Good Times

What a great day yesterday. The weather could not have been better for late November in Michigan. It seems the later we go in the season, the better the weather gets. If you can get a little sun in Michigan in late November, it's a good thing.

I made a listing last week about the lack of support from GVSU fans, particularly students, during the football playoffs. Well I don't know whether it was the nice weather, or a big effort to get them out, but they just about filled the student section! A capacity of about 3,000 in the student section was 85% full. I was quite impressed as a LOT of them stayed until the 4th quarter even though the halftime score was a 37-0 blowout by our Lakers.

A great day at the game was capped by a nice, quiet evening at home to wind down. I could have easily taken a long nap when I got home at 5, but I decided against screwing with my sleep cycle.

Now today is another lazy one. Finished a work out and cleaned out my car. I need to find a sub job for tommorow, already have one for Tuesday, and then it's a five-day weekend!

In other news, I think I am getting old. I can't stay up as late as I could this summer. Over the summer I could easily stay up till 2am or so. Nowadays, like yesterday, I'm cooked by 11:30.
I think a lot of it has to do with my work schedule and it's affects on my sleep schedule. We'll see if we can't screw that up some over Christmas break.

Alright, enough chit-chat. Go enjoy your Sunday!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Quiet Evening, Crazy Tommorow

Ahh yes, the calm before the storm.

Enjoying a nice, quiet evening tonight watching tv, having a couple Sierra Nevada Celebration Ales with some sharp cheddar cheese. It's nice having a relaxing time after a long week of work.

I've got an early morning tommorow. I've got a big day tommorow, heading to the GVSU-Hillsdale football game. This second round NCAA playoff game has been much anticipated since the Chargers handed the Lakers their only loss of the season back on October 10th in Hillsdale.
The upstart Chargers got here by securing the 6th and final regional seed at the end of the season which gave them the last playoff spot. They beat the Mavericks of Minnesotta State 27-24 in overtime last Saturday to set up this tilt.

Hillsdale, a college of only 1,400-some students in the middle of nowhere, is bringing over 1,500 fans to this game, as it's their first real DII playoff experience since joining this level in the early 1990's.

This one should be good, tailgating starts at 10am, so with everything else said, LET'S DO THIS.


See you on the other side.


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Fickle GVSU Fanbase

We all have heard the term "Fair-weather fan". This usually refers to someone who will cheer for a team when they are winning and experiencing good fortunes.

My alma-mater has had fickle fans for a few years now, especially the students. I could call them "phantom" fans. Now you see you don't. Has the GVSU football program fallen from grace? No, it's still winning games. However it appears a lot of people have become dissillusioned and complacent with the success this decade and have possibly gotten bored with it?

Here's the issue at hand. For years now, we pack our stadium to the brim in the regular season, averaging 150% capacity, with 4-6,000 students per game. However, when we make the playoffs and get a home playoff game, the fans dissapear. Our students don't seem to care that the games now mean life or death, and despite a free ticket, don't show. No one can seem to figure out the mental barrier with the student-body, and we've got the best minds in the business in the athletic department marketing team.

Now, West Michigan doesn't really seem to support the team much, especially during the playoffs. Whether it be the Whitecaps, Griffins or Lakers, the fans in West Michigan seem to dissapear during the post-season. Some have dubbed it the "West Michigan Mindset".

This has all finally culminated in what is going to occur this Saturday. GVSU will play Hillsdale at Lubbers stadium, and there will be more Hillsdale fans present than GVSU faithful, even student included. The numbers aren't lying and Hillsdale has begun to purchase tickets on our HOME side....the unthinkable is happening whether we believe it or not and there's nothing I can do.
As a true-blue Laker alum and supporter, this shame's me to my core. My school's spirit seems to really lack, and I think the issue needs to be addressed with the student body. How, I am not sure, but the issue needs to be pursued.

God Speed Laker Football, you'll need it Saturday on your home field.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

I Got Heart! You do too!

Hey guys and gals. So let's be real here, even if YOU might have a great job in your degree field, we all know at least one person our age who hasn't been able to find something, no matter how many internships they may have. We all probably know someone our age who unemployed, and we all know plenty of college grads our age who aren't working in their chosen degree field at the moment.

I've been fortunate enough to know an organization that is all about helping young people make the most of their lives and help them accomplish their goals. gives young people the inspiration and advice and tips to do better in school and have better results with their job or internship search, even in this economy.

What's even better is that they advocate public service and community work amongst our age group. We're the one's that will be inheriting this earth, so why not start now in making it a better place to live?!

No matter if you have already graduated from college, are still a student, or even if you know a high school student who is looking at college, IGotHeart can be a huge help in answering questions and securing confidence to go bodly in the direction of your dreams.

Recently the IGotHeart staff have been analyzing the benefits and drawbacks between choosing a standard four-year university, or a two-year or trade school when it comes to your employability post-graduation. They look at points such as how much money will you spend, how much time you will invest in comparison to what your job-income prospects will be post-graduation.

Visit, check them out and tell them I sent you. They're doing some great work so spread the word!

Until next time, keep your head up and your stick on the ice.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Is This Really Mid-November?

It has been waaay too nice for waaay too long for this time of year in this state.

Last weekend it was sunny and about 70 both days. A couple days this week got a little chilly, but overall it has been quite sunny.

Today was sunny and in the 60's, I mean I wore shorts all day!

Thanksgiving is only two weeks away...what?! Man it's hard to believe how fast time goes by. I hope everyone got the chance to get outside today here in Michigan and enjoy this weather. It will most likely be the last of it we have.

This is the first weekend since September that I've had to just sit-around my place and vegetate. I've either been out of town or out with friends at football games all day.

I'm sure you've realized by now that this entry lacks the depth of the previous. My bad, I'll work on that for ya.

Take it easy!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Detroit's Metamorphasis

So once again this morning while watching the morning news, there was a snippet about Detroit. While only about 1 minute in length and lacking any real economic substance, it was the opening introduction the reporter gave to the story (and the city) that made me laugh out loud.

Obviously going for a type of Fox'esque edginess, the reporter stated; "Economic, urban and social decay; it's what this city is all about these days." I laughed simply because it occurred to me that the way the situation was reported was more like they were touring a freak show instead of a disaster site. The attitude from the country is, and seems to have always been 'Gee, someone ought to do something about that'. Wildfires threatening the homes of wealthy Southern Californians is deemed a national disaster, while a city bleeding to death seems to be the country's sick version of reality television.

Let me move on to what I hoped this piece would be all about:

How this all came about and what will the "new" Detroit look like when the metamorphasis is complete.

Now, what we all see on television are the absolute worst areas of the city. Journalists want to find the most exaggerated image to further the impact of the story. True, there are scores of areas in Wayne County that are desolate, abandonned and in ruins. There are also still regular looking middle class neighborhoods though. Remember, 800,000 people still live in the city limits and 5 million in the greater metropolitan area.

At it's zenith in the start of the 1950's, the city of Detroit had a population of over 2 million residents. Over a half-century later, Detroit is an un-recognizable gjost of the gleaming city of the 1950's. The city's boundaries are sized for over 2 million residents, yet only 800,000 remain inside them, and even that number is questionable these days. The infrastructure was built for a city of that size as well obviously. With so much of the population gone, the majority has been abandonned and/or bulldozed. Virtually all major manufacturing has long ago left, leaving giant, forboding industrial parks rotting back into the earth. Whole acres of neighborhoods have been erased from the earth, turned back into praire land with only empty streets, sidewalks and streetlights to guide no one. Still furthermore countless homes and commerical buildings lay abondonned in a state of collapse and rot reminiscent of a post-war Europe.

First, Detroit had the misfortune of being one of the centers of racial tension in the 20th century. The ensuing maelstrom that occured has been like none other in the United States. The results of racism and ignorance can only be matched by that of South Africa. It really was, and still is, THAT bad. If you were white, you fled the city. Most African American's were not "allowed" to leave the city. A form a segregation so hideous and glaring was created that it still exists today. If I were a man of color in the 1960's, I probably would not be allowed to buy a house outside of the city of Detroit. This is a practice called "redlining". Banks tooks maps of the city and suburbs and outlined in red the areas where they would not grant loans. These areas were by far minority populated. While this practice was used by financial institutions around the country, it's effects are most devastatingly seen in Detroit.

Second, Detroit put all of her eggs into one basket; the auto and manufacturing industry which supported it. What were once tens of thousands of auto-jobs that spurred hundred of thousands of other jobs, has dwindled to only a tiny fraction. When the auto industry found cheaper (non-union) labor overseas, it moved jobs. Then, the imports came. Toyota and Honda started the trend. The big three had no previous competition and were wholly unprepared for what happened next. Declining marketshare and sales left Chryster, GM and Ford what they are today. Only now are they recognizing the competitiveness of the market. Ford has realized it can't only sell F150's and GM has hopefully realized it cannot only sell Tahoe's and Suburban's. It might be too little, too late. Most of us are not economists or MBA's, but the fatal flaws of their past business model can be seen to anyone. Furthermore, one could also state that the industry that built the city, also destroyed it. It started with the city ridding itself of all public transportation to appease the auto industry. Today, Detroit is the only "major" US city with no major public rail system. Instead, freeways were installed by ripping out whole neighborhoods.

Third, the citizens of Detroit have continually elected corrupt, impotent and apathetic city leadership. I now believe there are some serious corrupt political forces in that city who do not want change or improvement, as they are in some sick way profiting from the despair. City resources are put toward having giant casinos built in the city as if that in some way will make it all better. New ballparks are great, but the city is like a car. If the engine is not running, no amount of paint or polish will help.

Fourth, is a complete lack of responsibility by the public and the goverment. Fueled by racism and greed, millions of whites fled to the suburbs. They continue to flee today, to new "exurbs" even further out. Only a generation or two later, those with the financial means to do something about the problem are continuing to run. It makes a grave statement to the American idea of disposability. Turn, walk away, shed all responsibility and turn a blind eye to the suffering and despair. Whats worse, is those who like to make fun of the situation. What a worse statement of morality than to laugh, and even kick, those who are down. A famous quote from history reads; "If we can not save the many who are poor, we cannot save the few who are rich".

So what will become of this stricken city in future and in the meantime?

State and city officials seems to living on the empty dream that it will return to it's former glory of 2 million inhabitants with the auto industry being a giant, profitable employer and economic powerhouse again. They have pushed legislation that run in-line with those beliefs. However until they are able to move on from the past, the city will never be able to move forward, forever living through the former glory of itself. On the contrary, Detroit will more than likely become the most unique urbanized area in the country when recovery has been completed. It will look nothing like it's 20th century self.

In reality, I expect the city's population to continue to fall, and keep falling for a few more decades. In the end, there may only be 100,000 inhabitants left inside the old city limits. With the massive swaths of land already abandonned in the city, some have brought up truly unique and forward ideas such as turning that land into farmland, or simple re-forestation of some areas. A recent CBC report on the city also brought up the idea of Detroit becoming a "super-green" city. What about using massive open areas as energy producers? Large wind turbines lining parts of the freeways (The Lodge, I-75, 94, etc.). What about industrial rooftops being fitted with solar panels? The possibilities of becoming a clean energy exporter are endless, and that's assuming that not a single other soul leaves the city!

I'd like to get to Detroit with a large group of people to document some of the city's historical ruins before they go the way of Tiger Stadium or the Hudson's Building.

There will always be millions of people living in what is now suburban Detroit. However, it will be those hearty few souls, those with visionary plans and the ability to think outside of the box that will eventually re-create Detroit. Will we see it in our lifetime? Only if we begin to take a bit of responsibility for the situation, offer up our intellect, and pick up a shovel.

Remember, we're talking about human beings here. We are ALL made in Detroit.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Another Marvelous Weekend

Had a great weekend once again.

Not only because of the activities involved, but because the weather Mother Nature and the Good Lord bestowed on us for it! Both Saturday and Sunday were completely sunny with temps in the mid-upper 60's! Okay you say, that's nice. No, this is Michigan in November, those stats are awsome!!

So Saturday we headed out to GVSU at 9am for the Laker's last regular season home football game of 2009 against the Warriors of Wayne State. A beautiful morning of tailgating was capped off by a nice 59-28 victory ensuring a 5th consecutive Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletics Conference title, and yet another NCAA playoff berth.

The evening was filled with a marvelous bonfire at CowboyEric's 10 acres of land in Western Allendale. The evening included multiple trips deep into the woods to manually retrieve and haul large timbers back to the yard for the fire. I'm definitly getting old, because hauling massive timbers 10 acres last night has my body tired today.

Speaking of today, today was filled with a whole lot of nothing but relaxation. The most streniuous activities were heading to Meijer and doing laundry. Once again, wonderful weather gave us the opportunity to open all the windows in the house and get fresh air in this joint.

Not much else to report. Adrienne is doing well, and so is her family. Her alma-mater, the Dewitt Panthers are undefeated and rolling in the MHSAA playoffs! Go Panthers! I am currently watching the NY Giants take back the game from San Diego as I type this. Perhaps tommorow I can fill you all in on some more exciting stuff. Back to teaching 3rd grade tommorow. Love those kids!

Until then, keep your stick on the ice!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Invasive Species in the Beer Aisle

So the other day I was on a routine trip to my local Meijer superstore in search of groceries for the week. The shopping excursion began like any other with me quickly grabbing some of the usual suspects I can't go a week without: cereal, milk, bread, apples and bananas, sandwich meat and so on. After a few other necessities go in my cart, I begin to explore what else might be on sale or new on the shelf this week. This is where the zenith of my story comes in into focus.

Being a craft beer enthusiast I wander over to the extensive beer aisle to see what new seasonal offerings might have been brought in over the weekend. Now, in the past several years Meijer has really impressed me with their thorough and rather enthusiastic effort in having an excellent craft beer selection. They stock the full line of locals, Founders, Bells, New Holland and Arcadia, but they also carry a respectable variety from around the country as well. Meijer usually sets aside around 1/3 (+ or -) of the large beer aisle for the craft selection, leaving the BMC (Bud, Miller, Coors and the like) to the other side. This makes it pretty clean cut to the consumer where the quality products are.

So as I peruse the aisle up and down, I come face to face with what at the time I felt was a royal insult. As I looked up, right there in front of my eyes and within arms reach was a six-pack of the new Bud Light Golden the craft beer section. My first thought was one of "Someone must have misplaced it on this side." While looking closer, I realize that wasn't the case at all. The merchandiser had clearly given that shelf space to that product. So what gives?? Just because Anheuiser Busch is as big as they are, they get to have that spot and push a much more deserving craft brewer out? "They dare put THAT in with the highly respectable likes of Flying Dog, Great Lakes Brewery, Brooklyn Brewery, and Dogfish Head!? Do they even understand the difference??"

A Trojan Horse of the beer industry! Strategically placed so that the uninformed (and/or apathetic) consumer might not tell the difference. Blasphemy! So Anhuiser Busch wants to play dirty now, eh? I left with this thought brooding in my mind.

At this point, you're probably thinking "Why the hell do you care?" Well, Budweiser's first swing at the growing craft segment was Budweiser American Ale. Now, this product too was placed right in the heart of the craft beer section. I didn't give much of a hoot because it was marketed as a full blown regular ale, and ale (opposed to lager) is what makes up the majority of the craft beer segment. Bud Light Golden Wheat is something different. It's a light beer simply brewed with spices and orange peel. From what I can tell there is no real "wheat beer" characterisitics about it, other than marketing.

After giving it some thought, this might not be such a bad thing afterall. Does this mean all the wonderful craft beer we love will dissapear? No. While it is still in my mind's eye complete corporate bullying to get that shelf space when AB already has 1/3 of it to themselves pushing out a small brewery, time and our efforts I hope, can rectify that.

This is however, a sign that the industry giants are starting to get uneasy. While the overall beer sales numbers of beer have dropped the last several years, the craft beer segment has continually experienced growth in sales and product output of 5% to 10% each year for more than a decade. That means they are starting to "infringe" upon the big three's market share in a rather stagnant beverage segment. The brewing giants are sensing their first real competition from anyone other than themselves since before prohibition! You'd be pissed too! How dare they offer something different and get away with it! Truth be told, they almost did it too. For decades there was only one choice of beer in this country and it was a yellow, fizzy, bland concoction brewed with the cheapest and fewest ingredients available. A consumer-driven economy eventually will force this into reversal and demand choice and quality. Luckily, that process has begun in ernest here in the United States.

To further the impact, the craft beer industry in the United States is united together in collaboration to further the diversification of the beer industry in America and promote choice to the consumer. While the big three still fight and squabble against each other, they're facing a small, but growing and united front that gains momentum each passing day. So let's raise to a toast to beers that were collaboratively brewed with local concern in mind!

Monday, November 2, 2009