Friday, March 26, 2010

My office

Also before my computer died I had started writing a whole string of blogs that were "my ___" themed (like Scrubs episodes). So here's one of them:

I figured I’d start telling y’all about my new work life in installments. Today I’ll tell you about the building I work in. I work in a BIIIIIG old building. It’s the First National Building in downtown Detroit. The building itself has a website! It’s just off a little “park” which is mostly concrete but has ice skating in the winter time. The space United Way has looks out on to the park and I can see the Hard Rock CafĂ© (the epitome of class!).

Inside my building is…weird. If you keep your eyes level, you see an open and airy office building. Very modern and chic. Lots of new equipment and desks. New clean carpets. If you look up, you’ll see old plaster molding from what I assume to be the 1920s that is falling apart and exposed metal pipes and beams. In some parts of the office, the floor is bare concrete.

United Way of Southeastern Michigan is also a pioneer of something called free-range or hotelling in an office. Only about 30 staff out of 100 have their own desks. The rest of us pick somewhere different to sit every day. Most staff have laptops and so set up shop wherever they’d like. There’s about 10 desks with desktops where I usually set up camp as well. Interspersed throughout the 3 floors of our space are little glass cubicles called “fish bowls” that fit a desk, chair and book case. The glass cubicles have 2 walls that are opaque, one wall that is glass and a fourth glass wall that has a sliding glass door as well. The walls go up about 10 feet and then are open to the air again so you don’t get claustrophobic. If you have your own office (like 3 of the Vice Presidents do), that’s what your office looks like.

There’s a whole article on the office here:

Apparently it saves lots of money for the United Way. I like not being tied down. I don’t like that I haven’t been assigned a filing drawer yet so I carry around a stack of paper 8 inches tall in my backpack.

The cold

This is a post I wrote back in January before my computer died. Now that I have a new computer, I finally found the file and can post.

I’m learning all sorts of information about Michigan with my new job. I didn’t know that Detroit had the largest Middle Eastern population out side the Middle East. I was unaware that most of the abandoned buildings in Detroit have been abandoned since the 60s. And I was unaware that it’s legal for energy companies to turn off the heat in winter. In Wisconsin, or at least in Madison area, no energy company can legally turn off heat in winter. Sometimes this can be a problem for folks who don’t pay their heat from November to March and rack up huge bills that they have no hope of paying off, but at least these people survived.

I read a report while I was at work one day that folks could loose heat over the winter due to an inability to pay their bills and I was sure it wasn’t true. How could you do that in the Midwest? So I called one of the agencies I work with. Apparently in Michigan, although the utility companies have policies against doing something as horrible as turning off heat, it still happens. My agency told me that a senior citizen freezes to death in their own home almost every winter in the Detroit area.

Agencies like those I fund or even the ones I work for don’t want to attack the companies because they are valuable partners to us in our work. So when someone dies in the cold no existing agency feels capable of addressing the problem, and public outrage dies after a few weeks.

That’s just wrong.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Welcome Spring

Every year, my church back home has a fantastic celebration to welcome the Spring Equinox. It involves the choral reading group, small children dancing with scarves and the song "Calypso Alleluia."

The service always goes the same way. The head of the service reads about the East, the congregation does a responsive reading that ends with "Welcome Spring! Welcome the season of new life and new possibilities!" Then a group of children walk in carrying little suns on a stick and the whole congregation sings "Calypso Alleluia". In case you don't know the words, the song goes "Ahhhhhh-leluia sing ahhh-luia. Ahhhhhh-leluia sing ahhh-luia. Alleluia, Alleluia, Ahhhhh-leluia. Ahhhhhh-leluia sing ahhh-luia. Ahhhhhh-leluia sing ahhh-luia."

And then, we welcome the South. The congregation does a responsive reading that ends with "Welcome Spring! Welcome the season of new life and new possibilities!" and a group of children parade in with birds on sticks. The congregation sings "Calypso Alleluia."

We welcome the West. The congregation welcomes spring, children parade in with watering cans and umbrellas and everyone sings "Calypso Alleluia."

Then we welcome the North (or rather, my dad leads the welcoming of the north, as he is a very important person at the church). The congregation welcomes spring, the children parade in with colored scarves and everyone sings "Calypso Alleluia."

And then they sing Calypso Alleluia as a round.

This was the first year that I couldn't be home for the celebration. So my mom called me just as the service started so I could listen in (and sing along). Brian had no idea what was happening as i answered my phone, laughed hysterically, laughed a bit like Bevis and Butthead and sang "Calypso Alleluia" four times...

It was the most awesome phone call ever.


Today was a beautiful day in Michigan. The sun was shining, the birds were singing and we had our windows open to soak up springtime. I kept thinking I could hear some sort of brass instrument, but chalked it up to the neighbors listening to music. Eventually, I looked outside to see a man standing in the middle of a field, playing trombone with a small child playing in the dirt at his feet.

The sounds of spring.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Water water everywhere

Yesterday I took a much needed afternoon off. Turns out, more than two 12 hour days in a row will tire you out. So Brian and I went to Buffalo Wild Wings to watch the Badgers win at basketball and then attended the customary Bio Bev in the Ecology building. I haven't been able to make it to bio bev in a few weeks because of work and volunteering, so it was nice to be back, enjoying a Woodchuck and pretending to know what people are talking about.

*Fun fact: A Puma is a Cougar is a Mountain Lion is a Panther; A Woodchuck is a Groundhog is a Whistle Pig.

During this discussion of Pumas and Woodchucks, a strange alarm went off. I call it strange because it was just a very loud, constant buzzing. Tornado sirens and fire alarms all have varying sounds and loudness. And fire alarms usually have blinking lights inside a public building too.

So where was the noise coming from. I, with Melissa the Texan and Dan the child of Hippies went to investigate. Turns out, someone had activated the emergency eyewash station in the hallway and it was now spewing water everywhere. Dan ran through the sprinkler to go call Facilities Management. I ran through the sprinkler to go to the bathroom (alcohol+a sprinkler, of course i have go). On the way back, i saw the sprinkles which had before been creating a neat little stream were now attempting to create Lake Michigan in the hallway. I took action, got wet and figured out how to stop the sprinkler.

I was damp for a while, but satisfied with myself.

Sunday, March 14, 2010


Brian has now built me a beautiful beast of a computer. I will post pictures as soon as i install the right software. But for now, I get to blog about the posts I've been saving up!

With my long commute(at least 6 hours a week in the car), I've turned to books on tape as an entertaining alternative to music. I really am enjoying being able to read a book and drive a car at the same time without worrying about running off the road. And I get to listen to books that I can't seem to get through reading on my own. Someone asked me what I've learned from listening to books. I'm glad you've asked:

"The Man Who Fell to Earth"
-If your planet's fate rests on the shoulders of one man, you might want to make sure he's not a crabby, crazy asshole first.
-If you are an alien trying to pass as human, say you are from Kentucky.

"Fahrenheit 451"
-If a mechanical dog is suspicious of you, its because it knows what you've done wrong.

"On a Pale Horse"
-If your dad sets you up on a date with the Grim Reaper, your life is about to take a turn for the worse.
-Don't offer to take someone else's sins on your soul. Especially if you have recently been intimate with a demon.

"The Adventures of Huckleberry Fin"
-Tom Sawyer is an asshole. Don't listen to him, even if it sounds like he is trying to help you.

"Short stories of Sherlock Holmes"
-If you plan to kill someone with a snake, make sure it can't slither back through a hole in the wall and kill you.
-Don't trust people who reward you for having red hair.

"Gulliver's Travels"
-Always make sure all the tapes for a book on tape are functional before beginning. Otherwise, you will have to actually read the book to find out what happened.

"Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring"
-When traveling through middle earth, you will probably fall asleep a lot. Even if it seems like a bad idea, totally random, or entirely suspicious, its not a big deal.

Friday, March 12, 2010


Like alot of highways, the road I drive on has the electronic signs that can be used to alert drivers to accidents that have occurred on the road ahead, or the amount of time it will take to reach a particular exit.

But sometimes these signs are for advice.



I like that its not just advice, its rhyming advice. Like "an apple a day keeps the doctor away" or "liquor before beer you're in the clear." I imagine while I'm driving a group of miniature cheerleaders in blue and yellow (Michigan colors) chanting my advice. And maybe end with "GO TEAM!" What team that would be, i'm not sure but it makes me smile in the mornings.

Yesterday I had to drive out to another city for work. As I drove, I discovered that not all Michigan is so big on Rhyming


I hope Al's okay.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Importance of communication

As i posted before, my computer met with an untimely demise and I am still sharing Brian's desktop. But! My own new computer parts have arrived and are patiently waiting for Brian to have 20 or 30 hours in which to assemble them. In the meantime, i think of blogs I will post soon and try to snatch a few stolen minutes on a computer.

An unrelated story that will make perfect sense when I'm done with this post: Once in college I was sitting around with a group of my coworkers from PAVE. It was during a marathon session of facilitation for incoming members of the Greek system and five of us had an hour break. We were sitting around chatting, accompanied by the representative from the Fraternity Council. The conversation, of course, turned to poop. We were discussing the frequency and our feelings about privacy and the importance of location when one poops. The Fraternity representative finally asked, "Do all girls talk about poop so much?" My coworker responded: "No, almost never. But I do talk about it alot when Jenny is around." End of that story.

Today I watched an episode of House MD that was all about a blogger who shared everything about her life. The foods she ate, her opinions on her neighbors and her sex life. She even asked her blog to help her decide what kind of arterial replacement she should use. Since it was House, she was dying of something random and obscure and the problem was solved in the nick of time by using clues that had seemed unimportant before. The key to her illness was poop. She blogged about everything, so her doctors thought they knew everything about her. Except she never talked about poop. And it almost killed her.

I don't know if I'll start to blog about poop, but this definitely reinforced my belief that I am right, it is very important to talk about poo.