Friday, December 31, 2010

Top Five of 2010

2010 was a great year for Damn Arbor. Here are our top 5 articles from last year:

5. Ben Connor Barrie's Guide to Understanding Michigan Accents

Chain Gang

Today marks the opening of a 7-11 outpost at the corner of North University and State Street, taking over the space vacated by Ritz Camera. I'm not sure what the relevant differences between 7-11 and the Diag Party Shoppe, which is just down the block, will be, but that's probably because I don't patronize either. I do, however, act patronizingly towards both.

The Big Leagues

In case you missed it Damn Arbor made Edward Vielmetti's list of 5 Notable Ann Arbor Weblogs for 2010. Folks, we're in the Big Leagues now. I'm sure as soon as we get our AdSense sorted out, we'll be flush with Google-dollars.

One of the other blogs mentioned in the article is Marjorie O'Brien's The Useless Creatures. Here, and in an accompanying flickr set, Marjorie posts exquisitely detailed photographs of dead animals she finds in the greater Ann Arbor Area. It's definitely one of my favorite local blogs now. You can see an example of Marjorie's work above.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Great Lakes Shirts

By December 21, I had boxed myself into a bit of a situation: I had been planning, for weeks, to buy Christmas gifts from Great Lakes Shirts, a local company whose clothing features simply an imprint of the Great Lakes. However, as of the 21st, I had not actually ordered them yet. Reasons unknown.

I e-mailed Timothy, the contact person on the website, and, once he found out I live in Ann Arbor, he put me in touch with Dan. My gifts, a brown t-shirt and a grey sweatshirt, were delivered to my house, in person, by Dan, at noon on December 23.

The gifts were received, with much glee and great compliment, fewer than forty-eight hours later.

Damn Arbor Get Your Gun

In an English class in high school, we read an essay written from the perspective of a woman shooting a gun for the first time. I can't remember the make of the gun or the purpose of her using it--those details were beside the point. The woman, at first afraid of the gun's power, soon became enchanted, maybe intoxicated, by this power. She discovered, by shooting the gun, a version of herself that she hadn't before cultivated. She had been afraid and now she mastered her fear; she had been weak and now she felt strong. Shooting the gun was empowering, arousing, exciting; revealing on a personal level.

Michigan Cookies

Check out this awesome Michigan cookie from Sweet Expressions in Jackson. These cookies are exactly like those cookies from Meijer or Kroger that you hate to love, except they are 200% more delicious. Last night someone said that they are like eating a cloud. I have to agree.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Ann Arbor Skatepark

There are just a few days left to vote for the Ann Arbor Skatepark on Pepsi's Refresh Project. The Skatepark is in the running for $250k but is in 20th place. You can vote once a day for the next 9 days.

Fresh Prince of Ann Arbor

On Jackson Road.

Santa get your Stunna Shades

I worry that the shutter shades will make it difficult to drive the sleigh?

Cookie by Trey Cook, photo via DTSCook

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Ravens Club

Looks like Main Street's getting a new bar. Interestingly, The Crows Club might be a more appropriate name. Common ravens (Corvus corax) are infrequent visitors to southern Michigan. While American crows (Corvus brachyrhynchos) are quite common here as you may have noticed.

Ann Arbor, Home to Haute Couture?

In my quest to digest all local media, I came across FORMZine, a local fashion ezine. I have to wonder, though: is Ann Arbor an epicenter of the fashion world?

Get Ready for Mittenfest

Mittenfest V is only two days away. Looks like there are lots of great Michigan bands playing this benefit for 826 Michigan.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Ann Arbor's rich and single

Where are all these rich and single people? Doesn't the Hands-On Museum cater to the pre-dating demographic?

Friday, December 24, 2010

Roasted Kittens reports that a fire devastated a house occupied, in part, by a dozen cats. I passed by the house today while the fire trucks were converging; had I known that cats were imperiled I would have taken some pictures.

Cedar Rapids Trailer

Can you ID any places in Ann Arbor in the trailer?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Winter commuter challenge

If you aren't planning on putting your bike away until Oberon day, you should probably sign up for Wheels in Motion's winter commuter challenge. I just did.

Road to Chicago

Hillie and I stopped at our old Meijer in Kalamazoo on the way to the Christkindlmarkt in Chicago.

This car was in the parking lot.

We're glad to see the city is preparing itself.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Don't drink the water

Ann Arbor prides itself in the quality of its drinking water. I remember learning all about our state-of-the-art ozone purification system on a middle school trip to the water treatment plant. Unfortunately, today we are getting reports from the Environmental Working Group that show that Ann Arbor's tap water has 0.21 ppb chromium (VI). That's well over EWG's proposed safe exposure level of 0.06 ppb. Chromium (VI), chromium six, or hexavalent chromium, is the carcinogen Erin Brockovich was fighting against in that movie that won those awards. It is highly toxic in small concentrations and is the cousin of the more benign chromium (III). The EPA only regulates total chromium in drinking water and does not differentiate between these two oxidation states. The maximum allowable level of total chromium in drinking water is 100 ppb; this exposure level is set to prevent dermatitis.

It will be interesting to see how this all plays out. EWG tested tap water in 35 U.S. cities and found some chromium (VI) in all but 4 samples. Being able to drink tap water is something we really take for granted, and it is a luxury with which I do not wish to part. Then again, I really don't know enough about the long term impacts of chronic chromium (VI) exposure at a 0.21 ppb concentration to be able to judge my risk.

Image via Environmental Working Group

Winter Solstice

What's more fun than the longest night of the year and the official start of winter? How about a lunar eclipse on the same night? If it's clear enough tonight, make sure you try to take a peep at the moon, it should be pretty spectacular.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Nobody Actually Says "A-squared"

A travel writer from the Summit Daily in Frisco Colorado visited Ann Arbor recently:

On a recent fine fall weekend, I visited the city that locals refer to as “A2”” (or A-Squared). I came away thinking that the city of 113,000 residents is one of the hippest and most energetic cities I've ever passed through. Surely, the 40-some thousand students who attend the University of Michigan have something to do with that energy. Also factor in those dynamic folks involved in academic programs at the university (U of M has the largest pre-law and pre-med schools in the country!) and others involved in the area's notable research and development, and it's easy to see why the city has cultivated such a rich cultural scene.

Sure, people write A2 or A^2, but nobody says it.

Via The Chronicle

Zingerman's Cafe: There's More Next Door

My friends and family know I am an inveterate baker. I count my KitchenAid standing mixer as one of the best purchases I've ever made in my life, I've been known to make cookies during finals to avoid stress and studying, and I have for years been tossing around the idea of making my own butter. However, sometimes you can't be bothered to make a cake from scratch, especially if you only want a slice. That's why it's both a blessing and a curse that I live only five minutes' walk from Zingerman's, the infamous deli/bakery/food empire that dominates Ann Arbor food culture.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Dress your Mountain Man

Or a gift guide for that hipster in your life.

Via Mission Mission

Ann Arbor Observer Personals

Craigslist personals really has nothing on these:

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Neutral Zone gives gay teens a platform

So by now you've probably heard about Graeme Taylor, pictured above, the coughboygeniuscough gay 14-year-old from Ann Arbor that marched on over to the Howell School Board meeting on Nov. 8 to defend Howell High School economics teacher Jay McDowell. And you might have seen Taylor on MSNBC. Or "The Ellen DeGeneres Show." Or (let's get serious) the video of his speech on

What you didn't hear was that Taylor wasn't the only student to speak up; there were nine teens that drove from the Neutral Zone in Ann Arbor to the meeting. If you don't know what the eff I'm talking about, you can get some background from my article in The Voice (muhahaha) or a past post.

New Big Ten Logo

Lovely isn't it?

I'm not the biggest sports fan, but I do like angry rants. From Michigan Radio and John Bacon:

To create a new logo, they could ask some corn-fed rubes like you and your friends, but you would probably do something stupid like draw on the Big Ten's 115-year history and come up with something simple, honest, and authentic. Or you might just pay some art student a hundred bucks to make a new logo, like Nike did, and end up with some swoosh-looking thing, which no one remembers.

Local Food Fail?

As a community, we pride ourselves in our support of, and ability to obtain local foods. According to Michigan Department of Agriculture documents, Washtenaw County only scores a 9 on the local food index (Michigan's average is 30).

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Equal opportunity finals hatred...

Here's another video, this time about journalism. The end has "quite a kicker," as my boss Keith said.

The wonders of missed connections

Which boys?

I had hoped to derive some model for where to meet people from information on Ann Arbor's Craigslist. It would rank locations based on the relative frequency of being mentioned in missed connections.

For a while the health food stores were pulling strong: the People's Food Co-op, Trader Joe's and Whole Foods were mentioned frequently. Now it seems like the only place that gets listed regularly is the shower/sauna in the CCRB. I think my whole idea for a model suffers from insufficient data. Ann Arbor's missed connections is just too small of a sample size.

City Capital Improvements Plan Survey Results

The City just released the results of its Capital Improvements Plan Survey. It's worth reading. The results of the polls show that most people are pretty satisfied with Ann Arbor in general.The comments tell a different story:

Dinosaur Party, or A night at the museum

As a child, I loved U of M's Exhibit Museum. Fortunately, the excitement I felt learning about ancient life has not waned in the slightest as I have aged. You can imagine my excitement, then, at being invited to an exclusive party at the Museum recently. A party I will always remember as The Dinosaur Party.

The Exhibit Museum's Rotunda at night.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Biking in the Snow

Two of my favorite topics, as longtime readers are aware, are bicycling and the weather. This despite the fact that I am an amateur cyclist and my dislike of the snow is as high as it can get after 26 years living in cold climates. This year I've decided to brave the poorly plowed streets of A2 on my bike as much as possible. Since I invested in a new bike from Two Wheel Tango in the spring, it seemed silly to retire it for a third of the year.

Crime strikes close to home is reporting the theft of two conifers from Nichols Arboretum. Presumably, the unnamed species of pine and Eastern Red-Cedar (Juniperus virginiana) were stolen to be used as Christmas trees.

Questions remain: who would commit such a heinous act of tree-crime? Why didn't hyphenate Red-Cedar in their article? Do they actually think junipers are related to cedars? Who has such bad taste in Christmas trees? I mean, when was the last time you saw someone using a juniper as a Christmas tree? Most pines aren't great either, unless you are going for that Charlie Brown Christmas look. These are troubling times we live in, friends.

Alternative Christmas Trees

Personally, I'm partial to a Doug-fir, or White Fir, or Black Spruce, or even a White Spruce. Let's be honest, when it comes to trees, I have trouble choosing favorites. If you are feeling crafty this season though, you can always make your own Christmas tree.

Here we have a lovely bike tree:

And from Maine a lobster trap Christmas tree:

Photos via Gear Log and Nautica?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Kerrytown Cares tonight. Maybe on your birthday too.

Tonight from 5:30-9 p.m. is Kerrytown Cares, an event sponsored by the Junior League of Ann Arbor. Two words: wine tasting.

For those of us surviving finals week, you can skip the wine and just indulge in some chocolate and other goodies they plan to have there. And for those of us that still need to do holiday shopping, be sure to tell the cashier that you're "with the Junior League." If you do, 10 percent of your purchase will go toward Girls Group, a local nonprofit.

The event is free, so go blow off some steam, mah peepul.

Photo credit to ellenm1.

A trip to Frita Batidos in Pictures

If you have not yet read GH's review of Frita Batidos, please do so before proceeding. He has a far more sophisticated palate, and a better eye for aesthetics, than I do.

Last night Erika and I braved arctic temperatures to visit Frita Batidos. Partially, we wanted to see what all the hype was about, but we are also nearly out of food.

Great Lakes Surfing

What does California have that we don't? Nothing. Check out these guys surfing over the weekend in West Grand Traverse Bay.

Via: Up North Live

"Looks like you're in for a...night"

After a long Saturday of exam preparation, I had plans for an evening visit at Shak and Lael's.

Legal Love

Sounds like passions are running high at the court house. Via: craigslist.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Snowball fight and those darn kids

Last night (slash early this morning), there was a snowball fight on U of M's campus that caused 13 injuries and one instance of damaged property bad enough for the U of M Police to show up.

All of the instances are listed on the crime blotter today, starting at 12:37 a.m. and ending at 1:28 a.m. They all happened on South and West Quads, leaving the Michigan Union with two broken windows. For all injuries, snowball enthusiasts were either taken to the hospital or stuffed in an ambulance.

Now be sure not to let any moms see this, or they'll be proven right.

Photo credit to Christopher Ian Scott, who was able to capture my complete demolition of Miss Aubrey Ann Parker when a snowball went my hand -> the air -> Aubrey's FACE. This, however, did not happen during last night's snowball fight to end all snowball fights.

The tiny shwag we got at the Tiny Expo

Joshua and I stopped by the Tiny Expo on Saturday with a few friends. We were only there for 20 minutes, tops, but look at all the cool stuff we got!


The Heavier Side Taxidermy

When I originally saw the title of Ben Houston's piece about Mouse's elephants (The Lighter Side of Taxidermy), I thought he was talking about small animal taxidermy, not stuffed animals. Which reminds me, you can find this great example of large animal taxidermy on craigslist:

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Frita Batidos: Morning, 1:30 PM, and Night

We rarely get new "upscale" restaurants in downtown Ann Arbor (the last two I can think of were Grange and Jolly Pumpkin, both of which have definitively carved out niches in the food scene - such as it is), and there's definitely a bit of buzz that will build until a new establishment opens. Mix that with the relative fame (+ Top Chef infamy) that Eve Aronoff, proprietor of eve, has around town, and the opening of Frita Batidos was eagerly awaited throughout the fall. Not least by me, because I love Latin American food (esp. Cuban/Mexican), and we have terrible, terrible options in this town for it.

The Lighter Side of Taxidermy

I recently sat down with local craftswoman, Mouse Courtois, to talk about the stuffed animals she makes and sells on Etsy. Mouse sidled up to our table with a mug of coffee in one hand and a half-finished sock, bristling with knitting needles, in the other.

Mouse deals in elephants. She started selling her corduroy pachyderms earlier this year, but she’s had a profile on the craft website since 2005. The architecture of these animals appeal to her, she says, and is more interesting than the more familiar stuffed animals. Teddy bears are old hat. She gives life to the more neglected corners of the animal kingdom. Currently in the works is an aardvark, or maybe a platypus.

There’s an undeniable element of care in the animals Mouse creates and she makes very clear that she’s not mass-producing her wares from a pattern. “I’m bonding with the things I make,” she says. “I actually care about them. It’s not just an elephant. It’s one of my elephants.” Frequently, she walks around town with three or four of her animals under her arms.

Mouse’s stuffed animals go for $32.50 on Etsy. You can find her virtual storefront here. The coupon code "3L3PH4NT" will get you 10% off your elephant.

If you're an Etsy merchant that hails from Ann Arbor and would like your shop profiled on Damn Arbor, drop us a line.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Planet Rock's Christmas Tree

A lovely Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii).

Friday, December 10, 2010

Tis the season for bad pop Christmas songs

One of my favorite Christmastime activities is belting out Christmas songs--specifically Silver Bells--in the car with my little sister, Colleen. I like it because 1) it is firmly within my vocal range so I can sing it really loudly, and 2) because Colleen is and excellent singer. This means the sum of our voices actually sounds good. Unfortunately, this year I won't be able to sing with her because she is on study abroad in Spain.

Colleen is also one of our most dedicated readers. To date we have had 52 hits from Caceres Spain, and only 14 from Ypsilanti. In return for her loyalty, she asked me to dedicate a post to her. This brings be to my second point: terrible Christmas pop songs.

In addition to some wonderful Christmas carols, this time of year, we find ourselves surrounded by some truly... unique seasonal songs from popular artists. I'm not sure what compels pop musicians to write Christmas songs. Maybe it's a love of the season. Whatever the cause, come December we end up with a wide variance in the quality of pop Christmas songs gracing the airwaves. There are the diamonds in the rough: John and Yoko's Happy Xmas (War is Over). But for every good pop Christmas song, you find a Christmastime by The Smashing Pumpkins, a Do They Know It's Christmas? by Band Aid, or God forbid, a Christmas Tree by a young Lady Gaga.

So I ask you, gentle reader, what is your favorite pop Christmas song? What do you think the best or worst pop Christmas songs are?

In conclusion, Colleen I dedicate this song to you: Jimmy Eat World's cover of Last Christmas by Wham!:

Note: the band in the video is not Jimmy Eat World.

Nobody puts Tiny in a Christmas corner

So yeah, Midnight Madness already happened and we all stayed in for Black Friday, 'cause like, who are we to fall victim to the system? I like, wouldn't touch consumerism with a tandem fixie.

Okay, so enough making fun of the hipsters (because you're only a hipster if you make fun of them). Time to celebrate them with Ann Arbor's first Tiny Expo tomorrow.

Yeah yeah yeah, we already told you about the Tiny Expo. But for all us young twentysomethings, it's nice to have a reminder, eh? Like we said before, it's in 325 and 327 Braun Court (near Kerrytown, by Aut Bar) from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. tomorrow.

Also! After it's all said and done (aka at 8 p.m.), the artists will make room for Ann Arbor Film Festival to show a screening of one of their short films.

The Johns, Lennon and Sinclair

The 30th anniversary of John Lennon's death was Wednesday, which launched the news outlets into a flurry of tributes. Who are we to buck the trend? When we talk about Ann Arbor, though, it's hard to bring up one John with triggering reference to another.

Joyce Carol Oates on Belle Isle

Joyce Carol Oates has a touching essay about the death of her husband, Raymond Smith, in the December 13 issue of the New Yorker. Unfortunately, the story is only accessible with a subscription.

Available online is a selection of photos of the couple, including one of her on Belle Isle with the Detroit River in the background. Both she and the river look lovely.

Oates was an English professor at the University of Detroit from 1962 until she took a job at the University of Windsor in 1968. Her National-Book-Award-winning novel "them" is set in Detroit and based loosely on the life of one of her students there.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Childhood hero hangs up her skirt suits

After over seventy years in the funnies, Brenda Starr hits (or misses) her last deadline on January 2, 2011.

Deconstructing the Library Lot

The controversial library lot

As an Ann Arborite returning home after a few years, I'm finding the debate surrounding the Library Lot, and more importantly what exactly should be placed above the underground lot a little difficult to disentangle. Maybe though, that's because I'm spending too much time looking for answers in's comments. In general it seems like there is a lot of shouting and hand-waving, but very little substance.

Last week had two articles about the lot. The first covered City Council's reaction to a report by the Roxbury Group's report that a conference center may make sense in Down Town Ann Arbor. The second was an overly simplistic analysis of why a conference center may not make sense. While it is tempting to pick apart the authors arguments, that is ultimately unproductive.

In all the debate about what to do with the library lot it is difficult for me to find solid information and draw my own conclusions. Here are my thoughts:

Much Ado About Nothing at all

The University of Michigan Department of Theater and Drama presents Shakespeare's comedy this weekend, starting tonight. My brother--a college sophomore in Baltimore who recently saw his first live Shakespeare production--offers the best endorsement: "Erika, Shakespeare is dirty."

An obligatory post on Uggs

I recently came a cross a post concerning appropriate winter footwear on Tim Chilcote's blog Great Lakes Guru. His tirade against Uggs caught my eye:

If there’s one thing that irks me about my marriage it’s that my wife owns a pair of Uggs. These boots look like dirty lunch bags stuffed with wet hamster chips, and they transform the female form and strut into something akin to that of a drunk circus clown walking on the moon. Spend time on a college campus in Michigan and you’ll be terrified to find that nearly every female on campus is decked out in Uggs, and worse, they match the boots with black tights. Skinny undergraduate legs exaggerate the size of the boot until Ann Arbor in January is like a ballerina-hippie-Eskimo nightmare.
Say what you will sir, but Ann Arbor in January is MY ballerina-hippie-Eskimo nightmare! That being said, Tim certainly has a way with words.

Sometimes though, I feel a little guilty for hating on Uggs. It's just a little too easy, like when I beat my boss' five-year-old son in soccer: it feels good, but in a hollow way. Sure, they are lacking in terms of form and function. They offer no traction or arch support and don't resist the elements. But is it strange that we direct so much ire towards this fashion choice made by young women?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Does anyone speak Swedish?

Can someone tell me what the heck is going on in this conversation?

Update: Apparently she is talking to the guy who's picture Mr. Houston used for his article, The way of the Bike. Google translates the tweet as:

Check they write crap dodgy things about you on the Internet!

Gimme Shelter

I am taking Microeconomics this term (and have my final tomorrow, eek!) and we talk about markets, supply, and demand quite as a bit. As we all buy things, analyzing markets and consumer behavior is pretty interesting, especially when you start looking into abnormal or malfunctioning markets, like monopolies.

Having come to A2 from NYC, the vast differences in the rental housing market definitely caught me off guard. In New York, as soon as you see an apartment you like, you have to put in an application for it, lest someone else snatch it up. And you can't really look more than a month in advance of your move. So, there's about a two week period of being glued to your cellphone. Stressful!

Here, housing rentals are nearly the opposite - people look for housing almost a year in advance. Leases almost exclusively run September to September, or May to May, and a nine month lease is highly coveted. Perhaps most shockingly, your landlord can ask you if you plan to move a mere seventy-five days after your lease starts. After my first year in A2, I decided to move, and ended up signing a lease in December for an apartment I wouldn't move into for another eight months.

Basketball Primer

Pictures From Photo Galleries on MgoBlue

Here's a team that, in Coach Beilein's second year, made it to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The first time in 11 years they had actually gone to the tournament. His third year was a disappointment. He lost his senior leadership and no one stepped up to fill that role. This year, the major scoring threats from those two teams, Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims, have moved on to play in the NBA and D-League respectively.

Michigan fans, and basketball experts alike, don't have this team doing much this season. Beilein's got a lot of new faces playing major minutes. His team is young. The two senior leaders, Stu Douglass and Zack Novak, aren't even seniors. Two true freshmen and one redshirt freshmen are currently starting alongside a sophomore and a junior. In addition, they are playing in, arguably, the strongest conference this year. Some have as many as 8 teams from the big ten making the NCAA Tournament this year, Michigan is never one of them.

I don't expect this team to compete for the big ten championship, but I believe they will be far more competitive than most "experts," think. This isn't going to be like Coach Beilein's first year, where he was trying to teach his players new schemes they had never seen before. So far this season, this team has played well together. Their defense has been solid and although they haven't found a consistent offensive rhythm they are doing well enough to stay in games; they kept with a top 15 Syracuse team in their early season tournament and were able to beat Clemson on the road. This team still lives and dies by the three pointer. Unfortunately, they are not hitting enough consistently to get an offensive rhythm.

Darius Morris (above) has shown the improvement we heard about in the off-season and Jordan Morgan (below) has been playing well at center. Stu Douglass is leading the team, making nearly 50% of his threes this season. Zack Novak has seen his scoring and rebounding numbers go up now that he isn't forced to guard guys with 6 inches and 20 pounds on him. Tim Hardaway Jr. and Evan Smotrycz, our two talented true freshmen, have shown flashes but have lacked consistency . If we continue to play good defense and can improve shot selection/shooting percentage, this will be a dangerous team. Regardless they will be interesting to watch and I expect more pleasant surprises than unpleasant ones. Come see them play the Utah Utes Friday Night at Crisler Arena 6:30PM.

This comic captures how I feel about Ann Arbor's lack of snow

Via xkcd