Groundhog Day

Happy Sausage (i.e., Ground Hog) Day! {Obligatory bad pun groan from readers.}

The traditional Groundhog’s Day belief says that, if a hibernating animal sees its shadow that day, winter will last another six weeks. If there’s no shadow, spring will come early.

However, when I was growing up in Michigan, I always interpreted the phrase “six more weeks of winter” in the opposite way. I thought the groundhog seeing his shadow was a good thing: there will be only six more weeks of winter! In Michigan, winter weather could easily persist for eight or more weeks! It wasn’t until I moved to Texas that I encountered the notion that him seeing his shadow was bad, because winter weather will endure for six more weeks instead of ending earlier. Perspective is everything sometimes.

My best guess at the “underlying meteorology” of the traditional view is this: At the peak of winter in the Midwest, it is actually clear more than cloudy — there’s too little moisture in the air to have clouds when it’s that cold. But it tends to get cloudy when the winter weather is breaking. Thus, if he sees his shadow, we’re still in the grip of the peak of winter; otherwise winter is starting to fade.

I'm a Twit Now

I am a twit now, that is, I am now on Twitter.

I am still feeling my way around there, trying to decide how best to use it. So far, I’ve mostly posted an announcement and link whenever I post a blog article here. Becoming my Facebook fan is probably a better way to receive such notices though.

I’m going to experiment with other tweets, including some one-liner jokes. One liners? With only 140 characters (126 if I’m optimistic and leave room for people to re-tweet them), they’re more like half-liners, or maybe two-phrasers. I will also start re-tweeting other humor I come across.

For the benefit of those not on Twitter (or no longer checking it regularly), I will repeat any noteworthy or humorous tweets on a special tweets page on this site. Check it periodically to see what (if anything) you’ve missed.

I will say this: Twitter sure stops cold my tendency to write syntactically complex sentences. This is probably a good thing.

Guest Blog Post for Libra Fitness (First of Two)

Chris Heidel of Libra Fitness

Chris Heidel of Libra Fitness

I have written a pair of guest blog posts for Chris Heidel at Libra Fitness. The first was published today.

Libra Fitness provides private fitness services in their private in-home studio in north-central Austin. Unlike commercial gyms, they provide a more personal experience in a non-threatening, quiet, and caring in-home environment. Their Mission: To provide the tools necessary for you to consistently and confidently embrace and maintain a well-balanced lifestyle that includes healthy eating and exercise as critical components.

My first post for them is a review of the movie “Simply Raw: Reversing Diabetes in 30 Days”, which they recently showed as a special event. A simple summary: I was impressed enough to immediately order the DVD for my father, who has type-2 diabetes.

In next week’s blog entry at Libra Fitness, I will explain how I developed a sugar addiction and tell of my current struggle to finally contain it.

My Reaction to Japanese Car Buyers

Two of my friends recently bought Japanese cars, and several other friends did so in the past few years. I’ve generally kept my opinions about this to myself, because I know my immediate reaction probably isn’t truly fair or appropriate. Allow me to explain.

I was born in Dearborn, Michigan, where Ford Motor Company’s World Headquarters are located. I spent essentially all of my childhood in Northville, Michigan, which was basically a bedroom community for Ford white collar workers. My Dad was an engineer at Ford Light Truck; two-thirds or more of my friends’ fathers worked at Ford also. I particularly remember the hard slump the auto industry had in the late ’70s and early ’80s, caused by gas prices, the recession, … and the huge increase in Japanese auto imports then. People were being demoted and laid-off in sync with the increases in the US market share of the Japanese auto makers.

So when and where I grew up, a person who bought a Japanese car was a pariah. They were better than child molesters, but not by much. They were definitely less respected than drug dealers, since drug dealers at least provided many jobs within our own community (courier, lookout, enforcer, police officer, paramedic, rehab counselor, coroner, etc.).

Yes, I’m exaggerating of course. But I guarantee you I am not exaggerating anywhere near as much as you probably think I am.

I remember spates of vandalism of Japanese cars, and I don’t know if kids were behind it, because the vandals were sophisticated enough to leave alone Japanese cars with “M-plates”, special Michigan license plates used on evaluation vehicles owned by the Detroit automakers. The Japanese auto makers later defused some of the hostility against them as a whole when they started building manufacturing plants in America. But that didn’t mean anything to people in Northville; their engineering and management counterparts/competitors were still in Japan.

Of course, people like my Dad who said “The problem is that they’re making better cars than we are!” weren’t very popular either. But many people in Ford’s Light Truck Division were saying that, and they could get away with it because that division was keeping the whole company alive; they were the only division to make a profit for many years.

(Of course, you can argue that my father’s allegiance was to a foreign car company briefly. He moved to Chrysler and was there during the period when they were merged with Germany’s Daimler-Benz to form DaimlerChrysler. But that marriage was unhappy and ended in divorce, and Chrysler maintained its own engineering programs throughout.)

So part of me is happy for my friends with their nice new/newer Toyotas, Nissans, Hondas, etc. But when I hear a friend tell everyone about buying a Honda, a part of my thinks: Good god man, be quiet about that! Why don’t you share something less repulsive and embarrassing, like a story about acquiring a nasty venereal disease? That at least might be titillating. Otherwise save your grievous sins for the confessional booth (or the secular equivalent, therapy).

Again, I’m exaggerating, but not nearly as much as you probably think I am.