I am trying to lose the ten pounds that I have gained since this summer. These ten pounds are the result of several changes to my life, which are all for the better, but have ended up with me eating more and walking less.

I am doing this by using an online calorie counter. The last time I did this, as some of my friends will remember, I got a little… obsessed. Which was good for me because I lost the weight. And then some. But I also got a little obnoxious. I am addictive and neurotic, and this feeds into all of my tendencies. Except this time it’s worse, because there’s an iPhone app that goes along with my calorie tracker, so I can upload my food intake and my activities anywhere I go. For example, I can enter “walking” while I’m walking to the store.

Which is how I learned this morning that the Livestrong app does not have an activity registry for “pooping”.

Because my job exists almost entirely on the Internet, except when I am in meetings (in which we are discussing the Internet), it’s always exciting when I find myself in uncharted territory. It’s thrilling to be where I’m not supposed to be. I’m not talking about hacking into government websites. I’m talking about sites like this one (please click the link so you understand what I’m talking about), which I explored the entire time that I was eating my sandwich at my desk.

I do not know why I find this site so fascinating. But I have some theories:

1. The copy is awesome. TELL ME that you don’t enjoy reading the following:

SEP GLOBAL RESOURCES LTD.
119 AWOLOWO WAY IKEJA,
LAGOS NIGERIA.
WEST-AFRICA.

Dear Sir/Madam

We are delighted to write to your company as your name and address has been recommended
to us, as an authorized Supplier manufactures /exporters of various items from your country.

Hereafter, we are SEP GLOBAL RESOURCES LTD, established since 1974. here in LAGOS NIGERIA.
We are Agent/consultants, wholesale distributors, manufacturer’s representative on
import and export.

Presently we are actively engaged in sourcing for canned foods,Beverages,Cosmetics,
Body health care,Dresses(Suites,Shoes,Belts and Bags).For an urgent contract supply to our
End-Buyer- Economic Community of West-Africa States(ECOWAS) in LOME TOGO. and we have been
in this line of business for many successful years satisfying our numerous customers and
government with all their needs.

On the recent development, from our company’s Goodwill, We have been afforded with the
opportunity to contact your esteem company for an urgent contract supply to the
Economic Community of West-African States(ECOWAS) at WAHSOR Board in LOME TOGO.

Please if you can supply us with any of these products from your company, do not hesitate
to inform us through our email, so that we can stop further negotiations with other
foreign companies for an urgent supply.

Looking forward hearing from you.

Thanks,
Smith Wilson (Agent).

Come on! That is awesome! You cannot possibly say you are a fan of Wes Anderson and not like this website.

Yeah. That looks really safe.

2. The products are amazing. You can purchase 10,000 sets of mini nipple covers,up to 100,000 bone plates for skull repairs per month, or a full range of sexual enhancement products from this company, which recommends the following in case of emergency: Take cool boiled water if users are in trouble of frequent erection or long-time erection during sexual intercourse after use. That sounds extremely safe and practical. Also available are large quantities of L-theanine, telephone bugging devices, and a cryogenic liquid transporting semi-trailer.

3. Check out their popular keywords:

Oh. Excuse me. I meant Popular Keyword.
In case you can’t read that, it says hack saw, paper cup, security lighting, sport sunglasses, square tablecloth

4. There is a lot to learn about the business transactions of others. For instance, did you know that Ms. Sweety Thakur in Kathmandu is looking to purchase an entire container (over 20 tons) of MSG?

So, I challenge you, post the link for the absolute strangest thing you can find on the Asian Products website. Go to it!

I took over Nate’s Plate yesterday. Hopefully he’ll return the favor.

Cheater and The Blade

Mad Chris and Karl in the Morning

Karen and The Pig

The Drive with Kim and Sully

The Jim Wendt Show (public radio only)

Drive Time with Timm Timson

Now that Christmas is over, I thought that I would share some memories of the holiday season as we in the Miller-Barrett-Lilienfeld clan experienced it (what’s really amazing is that, in a clan of three adults and one child, we have three different last names).

For me, this will be remembered as the Christmas that I received a dutch oven from my mom.

Christmas preparations at our house.

This was the first year that I bought a real Christmas tree. But our revolving LED tree was broken, so it was moving in a more elliptical manner than I thought was safe or attractive. Plus, I covered the tree in multiple layers of tinsel and a revolving LED star on the top, so it was still in the realm of our traditions.

After we decorated the tree, I turned off the lights so we could experience its full glory.

“What do you think?” I asked Elliot.

“Yeah!” He shouted. “Take that, other people’s Christmas trees!”

Christmas morning at our house.

Elliot was at his dad’s house, so Joe and I exchanged gifts Christmas Eve. In the morning I woke up and was suddenly filled with remorse over one of the gifts that I had given him; an item that I had previously been really excited about.

“I just realized,” I said, “as a guy, are flannel sheets with snowflakes on them kind of … gay?”

Christmas dinner at our house.

Christmas dinner was attended by Elliot, me, my mom, and our friends Davy and Josh D, who may as well be family at this point. Davy was a last minute addition, and came bearing gifts of food that had obviously come from gift baskets given to him by people he doesn’t really know. And yet, Elliot was still talking yesterday about the fact that Davy gave him chocolate-covered graham crackers for Christmas.

The biggest hit of Christmas dinner was a side dish that I like to refer to as “angry biscuits.” Angry biscuits are the result of kneading and rolling when you’re really pissed off at your family.

Angry biscuits.

The main topic of conversation was the fact that my mom had given me a dutch oven for Christmas.

Josh D: “Yes! Dutch oven!”

Davy: “Hahahahaha! Wait. I kind of forgot what a dutch oven was, but I knew it was something funny.”

Elliot: “What’s a dutch oven?”

Me: “It’s that pot that grandma gave me for Christmas.”

Josh D: “Your grandma gave your mom a dutch oven for Christmas.”

Later…

Josh D: “I explained to your mom what a dutch oven is. Both kinds.”

Me: “There’s another kind of dutch oven?”

Josh D: “It’s when someone’s going down on you and you fart.”

Me: “You said ‘going down on’ to my mom? Gross! You can’t say that!”

Josh D: “I didn’t. I said, ‘When someone’s kissing you in your special place.'”

Me: “Ack! That’s even worse!”

After dinner, Elliot went upstairs to watch Christmas movies with my mom, and Davy, Geoff and I had Geoff’s outsourced Indian personal assistant call our friends, wish them a “Happy Christmas,” ask them how their families were doing, and report back to us via email.

As a follow-up, here’s the email I received today from Mayor Hieft (note the form email that he was also sending out at the bottom, there info there as well.

Hi Jordan!

Hope you are well. The extended hours proposal was changed last night so that nothing was done for now but the DDA will come back with more details. They really want the turnover of spaces that the extended hours would accomplish. That may not work for all of downtown but we will take up the subject again in March. I have included below the information I sent out yesterday to people who wrote with concerns.

In regard to parking for downtown workers we talked about how the DDA and get downtown program could do more to educate people on what is available. Currently a downtown restaurant worker or retail worker can park in a structure from 3 PM on for $30 per month. There are also very inexpensive dial-a-rides that run very late.  Someone who wrote me yesterday said what about crime in a parking structure late at night?  I understand that the perception is that it would be more dangerous but when this was studied a few years ago the structures were to be found to as safe as or even safer than anywhere else downtown. And then it is usually possible to find someone to walk with you if you ask. It may be in the end that nothing changes or it does. We need to wait for the data.

Thanks for writing and have a great holiday.

John Hieftje

Hello:

The appearance of this issue on the agenda was a surprise to me even though it is something that has been talked about at the Downtown Development Authority for a few years.  I will not be voting for it.

Judging from casual conversations with a couple of council members I ran into over the weekend at a holiday party and at Caucus last night, you don’t need to worry about this passing. But, while I have you, please let me explain some of the background on this issue.

Parking meters first originated to promote turnover of street spaces and second, to generate revenue. As time went on revenue generation became prominent for cities but turnover remains an important consideration.  Ideally street spaces will serve the downtown patron who wants to dash in for an hour of shopping, enjoy lunch, coffee or a quick dinner. The parking structures and gated lots are intended to accommodate longer term parking. That’s a major reason why it costs more to park on the street.

The shortage of street parking downtown is one reason the DDA has discussed this issue with increased revenue to expand and maintain the parking system being the other. Every city in Michigan is struggling so the revenue side is easy to understand but turnover is needed too. In some parts of downtown there is more need for turnover of street spaces in the evening than during the day.

People often park at 6:00 and leave the car until 10:00, 11 or later. I’ve done this many times. From a parking expert’s point of view, the problem with this is that the space never turns over.  Kind of like sitting at a table in a restaurant for 4 hours.  Parking in a structure or gated surface lot means paying more but the street space might then be available for 3 or 4 shorter stops that night. That’s 3 or 4 more downtown customers served. But extending the meter times probably won’t work for all of downtown and of course we need to be fair to all.

Promoting turnover of street spaces may be the reason one of the four downtown business associations favors an extension of enforcement times but it could be a problem for Kerrytown where there is not an abundance of structures. As we can all see, this is not a simple issue. A one-size-fits-all policy may not work but then having different rules for different parts of downtown could create confusion. Not making changes is always an option too.

Our city’s lively downtown is truly a treasure and a major contributor to our award winning quality of life. For many of us it’s a major reason for living in Ann Arbor. It adds a lot to the city’s ability to attract new businesses and jobs. We need to carefully consider any changes and make sure we have a good understanding of the possible consequences before taking action.  I expect this to be a long term discussion and having this on the agenda has at least kicked off the conversation.

If you would ever like to discuss this or any other issue please call my office for an appointment during my weekly open office hours. Thanks for writing and please accept my best wishes for a happy holiday season.

John Hieftje

Here’s my response:

Hi John,

Thanks for writing back.

So it looks like this is an issue of public awareness more than anything.
I know this might sound self-aggrandizing, but I’m pretty well involved in the 25-40 townie set, and I think I could help.

If it’s true that the parking structures are safer, that information should be better publicized. Ditto for the $30 a month parking pass (I don’t know any downtown workers who know about this, and you certainly can’t leave it up to the owners, for the most part).

This story blew up entirely in the social media sphere. It was all over Facebook and Twitter. It was hardly even covered by AnnArbor.com.

If you or someone in your office would send me a link to that study, or the study itself, as well as info about that parking pass, I’ll do my best to spread it across the social media sphere (that’s also what I do for a living :]).

Let me know what you think.

Cheers,
Jordan Miller

About an hour ago I received an e-mail from Kerrytown Market and Shops manager Karen Farmer, who said she had just returned from a meeting with Sandi Smith (D-1st ward), the person responsible for bringing the parking meter resolution to the city council (and also a member of the DDA).

Here’s what Karen, who seemed none too pleased, had to say:

None of the city council members, nor did members of the DDA, ever bring this to the Kerrytown District Association’s attention, and there is little or no time to prepare and respond. In addition, it is in the height of our local independent business holiday season and to come out to a council meeting on such a negative subject really isn’t fair, without proper notice and information.

We feel our district isn’t affected by downtown workers taking up all of the parking spots, and feel that our clientele coming to dine at eve, or take in a concert at the Kerrytown Concert House, or coming to pick up groceries from Sparrow or the Food Co-op (open until 10pm) will be directly affected; in addition, we only have metered parking spots – not the convenience of an attended structure or an attended surface lot, where you can go park and not think about it  until the end of the evening.

She brings up a point that hasn’t even been mentioned. And I wonder how often Kerrytown gets slighted in these sorts of decisions; they don’t have the political might (and I use this term loosely, we ARE talking about the small business politics of a small city) of Main Street or State Street.

County Commissioner Leah Gunn, who is also a member of the DDA (anyone sensing a pattern, here?), made the following argument in the comments section of the Ann Arbor Chronicle:

Anyone can park at Liberty Square or Ann Ashley Parking structures after 3 PM for a $3.00 drive in fee. Exit is automatic. But, restaurant workers do not use this opportunity. The DDA has tried many programs to get employees into structures in the evening, but they have had little effect. The DDA funds the GoPass for employees to ride the buses, but they don’t run late enough. The DDA has also offered them a shuttle to take them to their homes, but that has not met with much success either. Do you have any ideas?

I was told by a restaurant owner (who shall remain anonymous) that the employees do not want to plan and therfore are not interested in using these offered services. I agree that they are part of the ambience and economic success of downtown, but after all, it is the customer who is actually spending money.

Allow me to respond.

Anyone can park at Liberty Square or Ann Ashley Parking structures after 3 PM for a $3.00 drive in fee. Exit is automatic. But, restaurant workers do not use this opportunity.

Many restaurant workers don’t get out of work until midnight or later. Are you telling me that you would be okay walking by yourself (or letting your daughter, if you have one, walk by herself) in one of these covered lots that late at night?

The DDA funds the GoPass for employees to ride the buses, but they don’t run late enough.

Yep.

The DDA has also offered them a shuttle to take them to their homes, but that has not met with much success either.

This is a ludicrous idea. How, logistically, would you manage to get a group of people, who get off of work at random times (restaurant workers do not have a set leaving time like other workers), to their homes all over the city and in Ypsilanti?

I was told by a restaurant owner (who shall remain anonymous) that the employees do not want to plan and therfore are not interested in using these offered services. I agree that they are part of the ambience and economic success of downtown, but after all, it is the customer who is actually spending money.

Wow. That’s a crappy thing to say. Ummm, is the restaurant owner willing to tell their employees that they will certainly be done at work exactly at ten to catch the shuttle? Is this restaurant owner willing to walk each and every female employee to her car, which is located six blocks away in a dimly-lit covered lot?

Do you have any ideas?

Yes! I do! Either allow these workers to continue to park on the street at night for free, or provide them with a SAFE option: a parking pass that they can use at ANY lot. Not just the covered ones where no one wants to park.

From a story in the Boston Globe, published last month, on the fight over extending parking meter times in San Francisco:

“Earlier this year, when Chicago, desperate for revenue, leased its parking meter system for 75 years to Morgan Stanley for $1.15 billion, parking meter hours were extended, rates were quadrupled, citation fees were raised, and Mayor Richard Daley’s approval ratings fell to their worst level, 35 percent.”