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June 5th, 2024

I don't wanna be a candidate for Vietnam or Watergate

'Cause all I wanna do is...

There was a brief time back in the mid 2000s that I was a bike guy. I biked around on the weekends for fun and would ride to bars and parties and softball games - until I forgot to lock it up one night after coming home too inebriated and someone immediately yoinked it. I moved downtown a few months later, and I was a bike guy no more.

Fifteen or so years later, the BDGF fell in love with Montreal's bike share program called Bixi. Bixis are everywhere in Montreal. For $20 a month, you can grab a Bixi, ride it anywhere you want and then return it to any other Bixi station - which is never more than a block and half from where you're going. It's pretty rad, especially since they got e-bikes. As Montreal is an island with a volcano in the middle of it, it's a hilly place. But with e-bikes, you just say fuck them hills because going up a 30 degree incline is as easy strolling along the river. Close enough anyway. The e-bikes let us explore so much more of the city that the Metro doesn't reach.

You know where this is going. When Sid and Cassidy turned 15, we bought them a 50cc scooter to get around. A year later we bought another one. For the last ten years, it's what the BDGF and I use to get around in the summer. They're super fun but also getting on in years, so it was decided to eventually replace them with e-bikes. Long story short, eventually came early, there's now a plan to keep both the scooters and the e-bikes and anyway, that's mine up there.

As someone who desires to not own a car, I obviously think this is awesome. If they had these things 15 years ago I would have been insufferable about them. I still probably will be after three beers. I know it's unrealistic to go car-less in this town with my lifestyle, and let's be honest, I'm not biking when it's under 60 degrees or raining, but I'm working my way to car-lite, which is something.

- Speaking of, the BDGF's littlest is interning at an engineering firm in Flint this summer, which means she's commuting with my car most days, which means I'm back to commuting sans automobile. I haven't found a route yet to safely do that on a bike, but I'm working on it. The littlest also just got back from three weeks in Brazil, where she was installing solar panels and working on more efficient burn barrels. She even made the news! Very proud fake dad over here.

Posted 10:28am
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May 13th, 2024

I was dreamin' when I wrote this...

It's been a helluva month to look up.

We had some people over Friday to watch Hundreds of Beavers and one person texted me during the day saying "There's a chance we can see the aurora tonight!" To which I replied "Ann Arbor has terrible light pollution, so not bloody likely." As you can see, I was happily wrong.

This just month after this.

Which, while photographically not as impressive from an iPhone, even more spectacular to experience. The BDGF is an amateur astronomy buff, so I'm grateful she's on top off all this and ensures we never miss out. Because these are things not to be missed.

Posted 3:14pm
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April 4th, 2024

5 innocuous things that are making me happy in and around the present moment

- The BDGF just returned from 10 days in jolly ol' England. We've both re-connected with some college pals as of late, which means she got to go to Iceland and the UK and I got to go to Cleveland. I like when she goes off to have fun on her own, as I never begrudge anyone's good time and everything moves at my pace when I'm the only one around. But let's be honest, ten days was too long. It feels nice to be alone once in a while and indulge in some stuff your partner couldn't care less about, but it feels better to know that anything more than a week is too long and you look forward to them coming back.

- As always, no before pictures, but the corner of our basement has been a mess of cables that housed our router/modem ever since we did our remodel. We kind of hemmed and hawed about what we wanted to do with the space, but with time on my hands I just decided to clean up the current mess so we can do whatever we want when we decide what that is. So I built a shelf and added some power and cable connectors to move the giant mess out of the way. Whatever comes next, it's already an improvement.

- The BDGF's littlest is in the middle of her college right of passage of living with a bunch of roommates in a shared house that's over 100 years old. That means butting heads with landlords, and the littlest is ready to fight when things aren't right. This leads to a lot of texts to me and the BDGF asking what her rights are and/or if I can just come fix something as to bypass the inevitable slow play that all landlords trade in. This of course makes me happy because I have an avalanche of middle age dad skills and it always feels nice to be needed. It's also nice as it feels like whenever she does get her own place, she'll have a knowledge and understanding of what it takes to be responsible for a house or wherever she calls home. Because when she saw the shelf above, she commented "man it must be nice to do whatever you want to your house." and I didn't feel the need to respond with "Yeah but you're also responsible for everything" because I know she gets it.

- Monday is the big eclipse, which means everyone I know is asking me "What are you guys doing for the eclipse?" because they've rightfully ascertained that we will be taking part. I think they expect something along the lines of "We got a hotel room in St. Louis" or "We're going to the Neil Armstrong museum in Wapokenetta for their big event!" The answer is much more boring: we're going to chase a cloudless sky. Listen, it's April. Montreal got half a foot of snow this morning. Who knows where in the path of totality you'll even be able to look up and see the damn thing? As we're fortunate enough to live close to a lot of places in the path, we're going to check the forecast and head wherever looks most promising. Maybe that's pragmatic instead of romantic, but as astronerds, we don't want to screw this up...

- Finally, it's officially three years until I am eligible for retirement. Will I be able to quit this job then? Unlikely. Do I know what I'll do when I can quit? Probably not. I mean, I can imagine retirement, I don't have problem killing time, but there's going to be an interim where I need not-insignificant income that I don't want to generate via soul crushing IT work. Aye there's the rub. I've got a ten year gap between retirement funds becoming available and wanting to live a non-hermetic life. I suppose I've got at least three years to figure it out, but the clock is ticking to find a happy place.

Posted 10:19am
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March 6th, 2024

5 innocuous things that are making me happy in and around the present moment

- OscarQuest™ 2023 is complete! It was a decent year for movies and there wasn't really a "fuck that movie" this year (OK, the obligatory Dianne Warren entry "Flamin' Hot" was not good, but I'm not mad at it like I usually am). I would say if there's one thing nominated that might not be on your radar but you should see, make it "Perfect Days" It's an absolutely sublime film that will make you appreciate nature and want to use a public toilet in Tokyo. Seriously.

- Speaking of not the Oscars, far and away the most fun I had at the movies last year was at the Fantasia Film Festival in Montreal. That's usually true. Festival crowds love cinema, so you won't find a more enthusiastic audience. And Fantasia is a genre film festival, so it's horror and action and comedies - all things that if you're not watching them in an a theater with an audience, well you're doing it wrong. Of course lots of these types of films aren't in the BDGF's wheelhouse, so I have to be selective about what I drag her to. When we were looking at the program last summer, I was reading through the list of films and I said "What do you think about a movie called "Hundreds of Beavers?" And she gave an enthusiastic "Well we have to go see that." I don't think a week has gone by since that we haven't at least mentioned that movie. I say this now because it'll be at the Michigan next Friday night for ONE NIGHT ONLY. If you want to see a live action Looney Tunes cartoon made for like $20 with almost no dialogue, well have I got good news for you. We'll be there, and so should you.

- As Elon Musk continues to be one of the worst people is world and generally just a total asshat, I've left Twitter. It was kind of my New Years' resolution, so I finally cut the cord, just like I did so many years before with Facebook. When things are that outwardly toxic, you have to go. So you can find me on Mastodon and Bluesky @tbaggervance. I don't post much as I am old and boring, but just a reminder that where you hang out says something about you, and there are always substitutes to scratch that itch.

- Update! The mechanics took over three weeks to fix my car, which makes me angry and not innocuously happy, BUT, I did successfully manage life without a car that entire time. Mostly anyway. The BDGF still had a car I borrowed a couple of times, but it was mostly me and bus drivers for a month. I'm still taking the bus to work 2-3 times a week, providing I can get out of bed 15 minutes earlier than normal and I don't need to drive around for work. Hopefully this is a permanent fixture in my life. I actually like it, even if I know I can't completely ditch my car. Yet.

- Finally, the BDGF is headed across the pond in a couple of weeks to visit some old grad school friends and check on things over England way. I'm a little jealous because I would like to go, but I can't go to Montreal for a month in the summer and follow her across Europe, so we have to prioritize. I do like the idea of having the house to myself for 10 days of course - long enough to get stuff done and be ready for her to come home before she does. What is making me happy is that I've been getting ready to ramp up the woodworking business this year and I've spent the last few weeks sending money and paperwork to banks and the government to make it happen. I'll use my alone time to make some sort of official launch, so stay tuned to this space...

Posted 10:19am
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February 19th, 2024

I want to live forever (not literally)

I've received some unsolicited compliments lately. It's always nice right? People going out of their way to say they like what you did or that you have some quality they admire. We're all hard on ourselves (or at least I am) so when someone says they like something about you that you've worked on, it's nice. I'm also terrible at receiving compliments, but that's a different post.

This is doubly nice when they come from someone you admire. A six year old telling you that you're funny is great, but if they tell you they like your writing, well that's only useful if you write books for six year olds. However, when someone you don't really know says things about you, that's a horse of a different color. It's probably genuine and you can at least pretend that person has great taste and is expert enough for it to really mean something.

My only real relationship with fame was growing up with my dad. Of course my dad wasn't "famous" famous, but everywhere I went as a kid, everyone knew who my dad was. I stopped asking my dad "who was that?" when we walked into a public space and someone said hi to him, because he'd inevitably say "I don't know," it was just someone who recognized him and was being friendly. I of course thought it was cool, because people being nice to you feels good, and this came with no trappings of actual "fame."

I will never be one tenth as famous as my dad. I do however, have a distinct look, do a fair amount of stuff in public spaces, and am loud. The BDGF gets recognized more than I do, as she's been a teacher in this town for 20+ years and that makes you memorable to a large group of people. But I am known to a lot of bar staff in town. And occasionally people know something I wrote on the internet or saw me host or play trivia. The latter aren't necessarily people I've even ever had a conversation with, but they "know" who I am.

I suppose that's more defintionally what I mean by fame: people who have some sort of relationship with you in their brain despite not knowing you. It's a strange phenomenon. Again, I have a very small relationship with this behavior, but it does happen. I've had people in public recognize my voice, recognize my profile picture from something I wrote on the internet, or just come up and say "You're my trivia host!" Don't get me wrong, this is as "famous" as I desire to be, but it can be intoxicating.

No more so than this, which came up on BlueSky this weekend:

I immediately remembered this happening. I never would have recalled it without the prompt, but my brain went "Yup, that was me." I'll often do something stupid in public and say to the BDGF "well, at least those people got a story out of it" but you never know if it lingers in their brain after you're out of sight. Thanks to social media, I know for sure at least once it did.

The point of all this? Well obviously to take the opportunity to point out that someone I don't know thinks about me once a month, but to encourage you to say nice things to people, even if you say it to the ether. To them is better if you can -we could all use it.

Posted 10:19am
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January 31st, 2024

Urbanist Adventures

I don't know if I mentioned it but this happened the day before I left for Montreal last summer.

I was sitting on the back porch when the BDGF's littlest came home and asked "What happened to your car?" When I said "Nothing" she advised me to go double check and it turned out I was wrong. The dying tree on the berm in front of our house (that I had called the city about three times in the 12 months prior to the incident) tried to take my car with it on its way out. The windshield obviously had to be taken care of right away, but when I got back and tried to get an appointment to fix the roof, the first available appointment was January 29th.

So here I am on the cusp of February in Michigan without a car for the next two weeks. I don't want to drop $600 on a rental car nor do I want to force the BDGF to chauffeur me around for a fortnight. Since I go on and on about how stupid car culture is and have a stated goal to be car free, I'm going straight public transit like the good little urbanist I purport to be.

I've got a quite a few things going in my favor towards this stated goal. Obviously the first is that our household still has a vehicle. The BDGF and I do most things together anyway and we live a 20 minute walk from downtown. Couple those things with the unseasonably warm weather we're having and my nights and weekends shouldn't be a problem.

That does still leave my work commute however. I know I've talked here before about my frustration with the AATA, aka the buses in Ann Arbor. Where I work just so happens to be on the other side of US23, which means it isn't technically in Ann Arbor, which means the AATA doesn't run buses to my building. I write to them about once a year to remind them that between my building, Domino Farms across the street and another few clinics and a high school, there's over a thousand customers waiting to be served by them over here every day, but their answer is always "U of M runs a shuttle bus that serves that area."

The only problem with that is those buses don't run on a schedule. So there is no "take the 7:30am bus from here to here every morning" routine that you can plan, it's more of a "check both Google and Apple maps, see what they say then look at Michigan's real time bus map and see if you can time everything right so you're not standing around at one bus stop or another for 25 minutes" scenario.

Thankfully I do have all of those resources at my disposal. Unfortunately my first morning trying this out it was snowing like a motherfucker, and when the wrong bus showed at my schedule departure time Tuesday morning, I got on it without realizing it was the 63 bus and not the 22 bus, and long story short it took me two hours to get to work.

Since then I've had much better luck. While my normal commute in a car is 10 minutes, I've got my public transportation commute down to about 45 minutes. It would easily be half that if the AATA went to the other side of the highway (which also doesn't have infrastructure to cross on foot, of course) but I digress. We'll be nice and call it an hour out of my day I'm losing, which I am at peace with.

The BDGF's littlest has an internship in Flint this summer, so I'm considering all of this a dry run for living in a house with three people and two cars. Of course that's the summer when we also have two scooters to get around on, so even easier. Listen, I know some people choose to live where there is no public transportation. And some people love their cars. And no, buses aren't as cool as fixed rail travel nor as convenient as that or hoping in your giant truck that actually hauls something once a year to go to the grocery store because you forgot to pick up lemons when you were there last. But public transit is for me. Make it better. Make walking safer. Build cities where your first instinct isn't to hop in your car to go do something - so that we can get rid of all of this stupid infrastructure that we currently build to have a place to put your personal vehicle when you go shopping. I mean, that's what I want anyway. I suppose it only happens if people like me use what we have to show both our neighbors and the decision makers that people want this and can make it work.

Posted 10:19am
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January 26th, 2024

OscarQuest™ 2024 LFG!!!

It's on people. OscarQuest™ 2024* began Tuesday with the announcement of this year's nominees. Should Greta Gerwig and Margot Robbie have been nominated? Probably. Will the Academy ever nominate brilliant comedies like Bottoms or Theater Camp or Hundreds of Beavers? No. No they will not. But it's the Oscars. These aren't necessarily the best movies of the year or the ones we will be talking about ten years from now, they are their own thing. It's political. It's personal. It's public perception and consensus. That being said what the actual fuck Academy? Where's Asteroid City? Certainly we can find a little love for it in any number of categories. Whither Wes Anderson. I hope you win Best Live Action Short.

Nevertheless we undertake this Quest because these are some of the best movies of the year, we'll watch great movies we otherwise would have overlooked, and it's just fun. I'm a cinephile and collector, and the BDGF appreciates when I can collect things without bringing more junk into the house, so OscarQuest™ it is. As you can see below I've got a pretty good jump on things. I even already watched my least looked forward to film of every year: whatever piece of shit I have to choke down because Diane Warren wrote a song for it. There are apparently a bunch of people convinced she needs a statue, so every year I have to endure some film that has no business being in the same room as every other nominee. This year it was Flamin' Hot, a docudrama so unconcerned with the docu half of that moniker you don't have to know anything about the story to find yourself going "there's no way that's how that happened" constantly throughout the whole film.

But I digress. This all looks doable. We'll knock out most of the missing pieces when the Michigan shows all of the shorts (thanks team) and there'll be one or two international offerings that I'll still be trying to hunt down come March. With Asteroid City out of contention, I don't have anything that I'm overly rooting for.Lily Gladstone winning will be cool. Oppenheimer deserves most of the love it will get. Barbie will still (hopefully) be celebrated. Even if American Fiction doesn't win anything, way more people will see it because of its nominations and that's badass.

If you're not a giant freak like me trying to see every nominated film, at least try and see the best picture nominees. They're all very different films that have something to say and worth your time. And if you have the ability, go watch the shorts if they're playing in a theater near you. Seeing those films that I definitely wouldn't have seen without their Oscar clout is my favorite part of this.

*As always, I get my checklist from You should too.

Posted 10:19am
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January 9th, 2024

Sometimes when you're on...

Seemingly a lot of people categorized 2023 as a shit show. Far be it from me to "yeah but..." anyone's personal experience or feelings, but I liked it.

I still don't like my job very much, but I took some HUGE steps to insulate myself from what made it neigh on unbearable. Now I can happily sit in my office and try to remember not to care about things so much.

I "started" a woodworking business. I mean sure it didn't really make me any money, but I didn't lose money and I learned a lot and feel great about using it as a way to get to make a bunch of cool shit that gets subsidized by my customers, which is really all the best case scenario ever was anyway.

I got my trivia hosting gig back! I bitched for years about how it was the one thing missing from my pre-pando life and it finally showed up again. It may not last if more people don't start showing up, but it has been amazing to be back behind the mic, and I'll always be glad that I got another shot at it.

I had friends get married, have babies, and my own family is happy and healthy. The BDGF and I traveled a bunch, saw a ton of comedy and live music, and we spent more time in Montreal than ever before. Sure things aren't great globally or even in this country, but personally, 2023 was pretty good to me.

Oh yeah, and there was football.

I... don't have the words. Or I have too many. Michigan won the National Championship. They were perfect. The BDGF's littlest was texting us pictures of her partying on South U after the win and I think that's what I'm going to remember. Her getting to enjoy this fills me with a joy unimaginable. All of my friends are ecstatic. Everyone I love is celebrating. What better feeling is there than that?

2024 is an election year and if you pay a modicum of attention you know it's going to be a shit show for the next 11 months. But I'm here to tell you that good things happen too. It isn't always easy but holy shit can it be worth it.

Posted 10:19am
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This is me

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This page is written and maintained by Tyler Brubaker. All content is spewed forth from the author's brain, unless otherwise credited. He views his opinion as much more valid than yours, but welcomes all thoughts and comments.