February 25, 2009


This is a big deal. It's a very big deal.

My Ford Escort crossed the 200,000 mile mark just before it rolled into my driveway last night. You'll forgive me if I come off sounding like a proud parent, but this is an occasion for celebrating. It's been a lot of hard work, and he definitely doesn't have all of his original parts, but he just chugged beyond a historical milestone. I'm so glad I got to take the picture.

Would you believe I traded my Mutt Cutts van for it, straight up? I can get 70 miles to the gallon on that hog. No? Okay, false. I bought it in 2003 from my mom's co-worker (I think) with around 107,000 miles on it. And it eats me up inside to know that the majority of its miles were put on by someone else. Not for long, Escort. You and me, we're heading on into the sunset. We're going down together.

In case you're wondering, 200000 miles is enough to drive from my house to 588 Tigers games at Comerica Park (Happy Spring Training). I could have delivered 40000 pizzas. It's enough to drive to LA and go back and forth between there and New York City 35 times, and then go back home. Or I could have driven around earth 25 times. Or I could have driven 84% of the way to the moon.

Really, I racked up those miles with lots of trips to camp, delivering pizzas to people at unholy hours of the night, a shocking number of trips to Jimmy John's, and a long road trip to Orlando. I didn't expect the car to make it this far. Just figured it would die one day after I paid it off. But it's going strong, still has its stride... it's not limping. Yet.

February 24, 2009


A few months ago, I reformatted my hard drive. Wiped it clean. Best decision I ever made. I backed up everything, all my pictures, my music, my documents - even the stuff from college classes, stuff I'll never use or see again. Just in case, you know, the school comes calling and says, "Hey, we need to see that rough draft of your section of that final group project from Spanish 201, otherwise we're taking back your diploma." Boom, got it. Si, yo tengo. (Am I the only one that hangs onto this crap?) Anyway. I saved everything. Except, somehow my collection of the top 100 hip-hop songs from the 1990s disappeared. My library is now sadly lacking of The Diggable Planets and Nas.

Which leaves me with only 2,653 songs. Most of them acquired entirely legally, off my own CDs or via amazonmp3.com ($1.99 for Andrew Bird, $3.99 for The Killers. Yessss.) I don't know how my collection ballooned that big, but I do know that it's dwarfed in comparison to many others. (Sidenote: What if I started one of those annoying facebook chain letters asking people about their iTunes playlists. How many songs? Ten most listened to? Ten most recently listened to? How many unplayed?)

iTunes is great because it tracks all your music and how many times you've played it. I like this feature, and I assume it's standard for most players... iTunes probably isn't so special. But when I wiped my compy clean, iTunes reset itself. Curses. Back to zero on everything. Time was, a guy could look back and see which songs were played most often, which ones were rated the highest. No more. I know I listened to Intergalactic more than 40 times... but now it's back to zero. And so, I threw together a playlist of the good ones, and slowly sought out my favorites again.

So I made a playlist of all the unplayed ones. I have 1,619 songs which, as far as I know, I've never heard before. And right now I'm working it down to zero. I've found a few good ones - I would never, ever have sought out "Go Faster," by the Black Crowes, but I found it, and I'm sure it will be on the playlist for the gym. And I really like that demo of Jefferson Aeroplane from Relient K's Bird and the Bee Sides album. Also found: A Petra (yeah, that's right, Petra) medley with The Coloring Song, Derek Webb's Please before I go, and lots of other great stuff that would have been skipped over and never been put into a playlist.

I challenge you to do the same. Cuz, life is like a box of chocolates. Or something.

February 23, 2009

Happy Birthday

Yup. My birthday. Yesterday. And it was a happy one.

Sleep in: Check.
Lunch with family: Check.
Steak: Check.
Sitting on the bull, getting a yee-ha from everyone at Texas Roadhouse: Check.
Delicious birthday cake made by mom: Check.
Moleskines: Check.
Michigan State come back victory: Check.
Watching The Office with the family: Check.
Movie with friends: Check. (sidenote: Skip The International.)
Dr Pepper: Check.
Watching Flight of the Conchords and The Office with friends: Check.

I can't tell you how good the cake was. There are only three pieces left, and if I can help it you aren't going to get any of them.

February 18, 2009

Africa pictures, 1

When I run out of things to say, it's best to just show pictures. I took something like 2000 pictures while I was there, and there's no way I can share them all. But I do feel like putting up a few. Right click and select "View Image" to see 'em full size.

I saw a picture of Kigali, Rwanda, and someone remarked at how surprising it was. They were shocked at how somewhere in Africa could be so cosmopolitan. Metropolitan Africa is not, by any means, like the big cities of the United States. But there are cars, pedestrians, billboards, paved roads. And people doing their laundry on the roof.


Just a few days after I arrived in Mumba, the ants took over my house. I was reading a book, and Steve came in and told me to come outside. So I went outside and heard ants. Then I saw them. They were all over the walls, assuming control of the place. I left the house in their control that night, having seen enough Discovery Channel shows about ants carrying off people too old, sick, or asleep and eating them alive. The next day, they were gone, and I never saw them again.

Millions of 'em. Literally

We had a fire. I got too close to said fire. Here's a picture of my beard (R.I.P. Beard I. Two weeks before I left, I shaved it off and scattered it in the field where it had been singed. I had a ceremony, it was beautiful.)

I miss this beard

Here's a picture of Cory's dogs, peaking through his courtyard in Mbeya. No sentimental memories, just a cool picture, I think.


And going with the animal theme, here's a baboon. They're everywhere. They really aren't so exotic; people shoot them because they're pests. Think of them as big racoons.

Baboon + Banana = Bananaboon

Zebras. No big deal. We were hunting, and we weren't allowed to shoot them. They probably aren't that tasty anywho.


To get in shape for Kilimanjaro, I climbed a nearby mountain a few times a week. I would get up there, collapse, catch my breath, and enjoy the breeze. It was amazing. I got a good cell signal there, too, and sometimes I would call my parents. There's no place in the world as peaceful at this one. Until I saw a puff adder up there. That's Jericho, straight chillin.

Jericho demonstrates the art of chillaxing, Afro-style

More soon.

February 10, 2009

How to fight

Because you need to know this:

And to the crook out there who found my wallet and didn't return it to me: You are a bad man and now I am ready to fight you. I already canceled my credit cards and I get a new license when I turn 25 in two weeks anyway. You can keep the library card and the Blockbuster card and my Biggby Coffee rewards card and the 2007 Detroit Tigers schedule inside it. The only thing I want back is my college ID so I can still save money at the movies. You can't really use it unless you look like me. Which you might. If I were you and I looked like me, I'd use it. Good thing there were only $2 in it, not nearly enough to support your meth habit.

Edit: I got my wallet back today.

February 8, 2009

The Meaning of the Universe

Two things happened this week that are, I guess, pointlessly small things in life that can be extrapolated into larger meaning or, at least, a mildly amusing blog entry.


I went to the library on Wednesday. The Grandville library, the good one, where they don't yell at me when I come in with a cup of tea, where there's plenty of space and lots of tables and high ceilings so I don't feel crowded, and Wi-Fi to keep me from accomplishing anything. My only qualm is that the place closes at five on weekends and eight on week nights. This is where I begin to miss college: Late night silence in the library. The library is my only respite of quiet from the frappuchino-blending and ambient hipstermusic of coffee shops. But it closes at 8.

So I went to the library with a composition book and Elie Wiesel's Night, which I got for fifty cents at a thrift shop, presumably donated by someone who held onto it after a literature class. I brought with me a cup of tea and a few cookies my mom had baked, because writing makes me think and thinking makes me tired, and cookies counterbalance it all. There's a sign at the entrance about no outside food or drink, and I never pay any attention to it because I assume it's not for me, it's meant for little kids with drippy popsicles and overburdened moms with cups of coffee. I pose no threat with my tea and neatly bagged cookies.

I sat down at a table near awindow and noticed an open checkbook ledger next to me. Soon, an elderly guy came back with a stack of newspapers and sat down kitty-corner from me, and reclaimed his checkbook ledger. I realized I had invaded his space, and that I would probably feel a little awkward myself if someone sat at my table. Nevermind that there are four seats.

He gave me a glare, and shuffled his newspapers. I tried to look unimposing. Just a guy with a book and some tea and - what's this? - some cookies. No, sir, no problems here. I wasn't the teenager who crossed your lawn last summer or the kid with the loud music in traffic. I meant no harm.

But as I presented my bag of cookies, his unnecessary vigilantism came out. "You know you're not supposed to have food in here," he said.

I found it shocking.

So I didn't defend my right to cookies. I just said, "Okay," and put 'em away.

I couldn't read or write, I kept thinking about how weird it was that he called me out. And he was really loud shuffling his newspaper.

So I moved elsewhere, and ate my cookies.


I went to the mall yesterday, and found the parking ramp crowded. So I stalked a lady and her kids as they found a space, and waited. She took forever getting settled, and cars started to line up behind me. I waited patiently, committed to the space, and a few cars bypassed the line, making the lady who was about to leave the space wait even more. So she backed out and faced me, and just as she passed me, another car, with a punk kid and his girlfriend arrived and immediately took it.

I found it shocking.

I used to wonder about the maniacs out there who flip out over traffic snafus and end up in jail for crippling someone who cut them off in traffic. Now I know where they're coming from.

I was offended. I thought about waiting and telling him I had been waiting for the space for a solid two-three minutes, that I had laid claim to it and backed up traffic for the space he had so callously usurped. Then I thought about throwing the half-full (in this case, half-empty) cup in my cup-holder at his car and leaving. It was only right.

He... must... pay.

Instead, I drove on, and found a space much farther away from the entrance and never saw him again.

Now, I might be blowing both of these little stories out of proportion, but I think they're clues to the meaning of the universe, somehow. And that is why I choose to share them with you.

February 2, 2009


I spent last week at my home away from home: Camp. I love how it doesn't need a more specific title than that... It's fine calling it camp. Lots of people have a "camp," and even though they all have different names, they're all just... camp.

Anyway, I told them I'd come up and help last week, and without having found sufficient excuse to get out of it, I made good on my promise. It's always good, no matter how awkward it can be to teach kids how to do stuff I don't know how to do, like cross-country skiing. But they have a way of figuring it out on their own, eventually. Usually. Sometimes. Maybe.

There were a bunch of sixth graders there. We have an indoor climbing tower, and each kid got a shot at it. I saw two grils scramble half-way up the wall quickly, stopped, and insist they had gone as far as they could and wanted to come down. Not more than 30 seconds on the wall, and they were defeated, even though they could easily have made it to the top. I just. Don't. Get it.

We took them on a hike out to the dunes. I wonder why they do this, in January, in 15 degree weather, with kids who would much rather play an x-box than go for a walk. But, like everything else you do at camp, 90% of the kids loved it and 10% hated it. I walked at the back, which was where the haters inevitably congregated. I had to coax a few kids off the ground, tears freezing on their cheeks, telling them that stopping in the snow and waiting for a bus to come was not an option. We got to the dunes, which are always windy and cool even in the summer, and the snow was blowing, freezing into chunks of mixed mud at the surface. The wind whipped across the dunes, breezed through my jacket and my other layers, broke my skin and needled at my bones. It was cold.

But... No one ever sees the dunes like this. Everyone comes when the sun is out and the water is warm. I don't know of anywhere else in the world where you can see a mini-desert covered with snow and break the sandy ice chunks under your boots. It was beautiful in a moonscape sort of way. And that alone makes it worthwhile to brave the cold to see it.

And because I just watched this and thought it was funny....

"Is this real life? Is this gonna be forever? Why is this happening to me?"