#11: Illegal Pyrotechnics… Depending on Your Village, Township or City, Your Mileage May Vary.

So… here’s a salute to all things July 4.  This year I was able to stretch the holiday into the better part of a week, starting out with the 20th annual Salute to America at Greenfield Village on July 1.  The Salute features a concert by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra for 5,000 folks in Walnut Grove, and is capped by real cannon fire during the 1812 Overture and a fine fireworks display.  It was a perfect evening, and John C, my brother Scott and I had a fine time. As always, click the photos to get a better view of them:

Messrs Cady and Hensler enjoying the evening with a few close friends.

Cannons were fired during the 1812 Overture. Many forest squirrels had their minds blown that evening.

Room for 5,000 fills up rather quickly.

The evening’s finale…

… is well worth the wait.

I also attended the fireworks display in Ada on the 4th itself; for a small town they really have a nice show. Plus it gave me further excuse to play with my new camera.

Part of the Ada finale.

With the heat wave continuing to impose itself on us, the best refuge was in the waters of Lake Michigan, and so it was an even better time than usual to hang out with the Brysons, as they have a boat. Not to mention accommodations that defy description.

As the temps climb into the triple digits, this is really the only view you want on a hot summer afternoon.

Guests of the Bryson family are privileged to stay in the lavishly-appointed Pope Gregory Suite.

But the reason for the blog entry: #11 is to fire an illegal firework on the 4th of July.  Well, the fireworks laws in Michigan have softened a bit in the last year or two, so purchase of formerly banned fireworks is now allowed, nay… encouraged. Whether it is OK to fire them off is dependent on the ordinances of the individual city or township.  I didn’t bother to check with Ada, so at least we felt somewhat devious as we played with matches.  At any rate, Ada is like the rest of the state of Michigan this summer of 2012 — it’s dry as a bone.  The Catheys live in a rather heavily forested area, and I really didn’t want to risk a neighborhood conflagration, so we let off a few spinning “Crazy Eyeballs” in the driveway.  Still looked pretty cool:

Well, that’s one crazy eyeball for you…

And Scott couldn’t resist the urge to get in some sparkler art…

Plus there was a bit of a wand battle between mother and son.

So, it was a fun few days.  Thanks to Tom, Jana, Scott, Holly, Dawn, Bill, Michelle, Grace, Joel… good times.

After an enjoyable dinner on the deck at Michillinda Lodge

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#23… With more to come, I hope.

#23 on the list is attending a D23 Event. You might be wondering what D23 is. It’s the name of the “official” Disney fan club (the 23 refers to 1923, the year the Company was founded by Walt). I’ve been a member of D23 for a few years now, and for me it’s well worth the membership fee, which includes a slick, oversize magazine and offer some exclusive events. Most of these gatherings are at the theme parks in California and Florida, but this year D23 is going “on the road” with a series of events dubbed “Fanniversary.” I haven’t had the chance to attend an event at WDW or Disneyland yet, so when D23 announced one of the events would take place in Chicago, it was an easy sell, being just five hours away in Motown. I contacted my friend Jonathan, a fellow D23 member and all-around Disney Geek, and we made plans to go.

The event was held at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, and basically consisted of a 90-minute show/presentation in which various Disney entities that had a milestone anniversary were commemorated.  For example, 2012 marks the 75th anniversary of Snow White and The Seven Dwarves, the 85th for Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, the 45th for the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction at Disneyland, and the 20th anniversary for Disneyland Paris, among many others.  Sometimes this was done with a simple acknowledgement, but more often it was accompanied by some rarely seen behind-the-scenes artwork, video, or even a recollection by one of the artists or Imagineers who helped produce the honoree.  As an example, for Pirates the video included a pre-opening ride-through, plus some unintentionally hilarious footage of the 1967 media day preview events.  The narration by the D23 hosts, Steve and Billy, was also fun.

In addition to the well-known, a few anniversaries were for items that were completely unknown to me, like the 1967 musical The Happiest Millionaire.  It was the last film that Walt himself was involved with, and he passed away during its production. It’s available for rental via Amazon Instant Video, so it might be worth checking out.

It’s the 30th anniversary of both Tron (which I fondly recall being wowed by during a vacation to Cali in 1982) and Epcot itself. Actually, the brief glimpse of a behind-the-scenes video we watched about Epcot was a just tantalizing tease for a much larger event, a day-long 30th Anniversary event to be held on site at the park on September 30th.  I’m still contemplating if I can make it to that one or not.  It  certainly looks like an Epcot geek’s dream come true.

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Wrapping up #94

Well, I can cross one more off faster than I’d have guessed. Near the tail end of my teaching gig at Antioch, Libby, Michelle and I drove down to Boston for the day.  One destination was the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.  It turned out my friend Jay was in Boston for the weekend, and since I dragged invited him to the second Presidential Library in this task — FDR’s in Hyde Park — it made perfect sense to have him to meet up with us.

It’s an impressive facility, just as nice as the museum side of the Carter Center.  An introductory film sets the stage, followed by a series of exhibits.  There’s no shortage of artifacts — to me, the most impressive is the coconut from Olasana Island (part of the Solomon Islands) that JFK carved a message into to inform Allied forces that the survivors of PT-109 were indeed alive.  The coconut shell was on the President’s desk during his presidency and now is part of the museum’s collection. Why not? It helped make him into a war hero, after all.

The actual coconut shell that Kennedy carved a simple message into.

There are a lot of really compelling photographs, both from the administration as well as Kennedy’s younger years. Given his social standing and the development of photography as an accessible medium, he might have been the first President in which it was fairly easy to document an entire life with photos. In addition to the JFK exhibits, Bobby Kennedy’s Attorney General Office is replicated, which was a bonus.

There is a goodly amount of artifacts and photos from the space program here. Here’s JFK with John Glenn.
Perhaps post-Glenn’s orbital flight?

Bobby at his desk as the Attorney General.
For those Kennedy-philes who are wondering, there are small nuggets of artifacts about all the Kennedy family members amongst the exhibits, but Bobby gets the lion’s share of the attention.

I was curious as to how the assassination would be handled.  One of the final sections leads into a darkened hallway with just “November 22, 1963” on the wall.  Then one turns a corner into an even darker room and you watch the famous CBS Walter Cronkite “special bulletin” coverage, which is playing on several TV monitors large and small.  It’s effective, as they let the power of that particularly memorable news report convey the shock of the tragedy.

After that, there is a resource room with lists of Kennedy achievements and books. Finally, visitors enter a soaring glass atrium with an impressively large flag and a moving passage from the President’s inaugural address on the wall. It’s a nice way to end the museum tour.

The atrium.

The address.

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#12: Created a trail app (a WebApp, actually)

Do you have this on your phone yet?  No?  Why not?

I’m the webmaster for the Friends of the Clinton River Trail website, and while the main site is just fine by itself, there has been a growing need for a mobile version of the site. So I’ve spent the last couple of weeks working on the “portable” CRT site — for users who are browsing with smartphones and tablets. Makes sense, as many of our users are out on the trail with their smartphones anyway.

The cool part — and defines this project as an app — is that the software template I modified uses a script that creates what Apple calls WebApps. It’s basically an app that works like a website, but the end user never opens up a browser window until they open a PDF file or something like that.  Creates its own cool-looking icon, as you can see in the photo above.

Anyway, to get to the app you can scan this code:

Once the app is installed and the icon is set, just tap the icon and you’re in the app.  The app reflows for either orientation, nice and smooth, and has a few photos and other information in addition to the trail map.

Alternatively, and particularly if you are reading this on a smartphone, just click here to get the app.

As you can see in the shots below, the app looks great in both portrait and landscape orientations.  Nice.

"about" page map page FC page Bridge pic

Check it out, and enjoy the trail!

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#3: New car… sooner than I had expected.

Letting the geek flag fly proudly. If you want a cool TARDIS frame too, click the photo.

Sure, purchasing a new — or at least new to me — vehicle was on my list; I had been driving around a 2000 Honda Civic coupe since 2005.  It was a fine little car, but was starting to show signs of age. I figured it had a good 3 or 4,000 miles left on it, and imagined getting a replacement would have been one of the last things I’d do on this list.

Well, that all changed on November 16, when, as I left my apartment headed for a video-shooting gig in Washington DC, I was met with an empty space in the carport where the vehicle was just seven hours earlier.  I’ve never encountered any real crime here in the humble burg of Royal Oak, so it was all the more unsettling.  Indeed, at first I walked out to the front to make sure I hadn’t parked the car on the street.  But no, the streetside was as empty as the carport was.  Then I recalled how the previous night in preparation for my gig I had taken a couple bags of gear outside to load up the car.  They went in the trunk, but … someone must have been watching (creepy enough), and specualted the gear and the car must have been a good target.

So, after talking to the police and the insurance guy (he informed me that 2000 was the last model year before Honda made anti-theft standard equipment in all of their cars… great), I hustled my way to DC via plane and did the gig.  The videos are here, by the way.

In the plane I had an idea about what to drive upon my return to Detroit. I’d ask if I could borrow my mom’s car for a few weeks while the insurance claim was processed — they won’t start to process the claim for at least three weeks, as most stolen cars are recovered in that timeframe. Luckily, I have a fantastic and very accommodating mother, and I made plans to rent a car from DC and drive down to Myrtle Beach and get her car… thinking I’d return it at Christmastime.

Well, a one-month loan stretched into four, as I finally got around to getting a new car in mid-March. Ford Credit was generous enough to lease me a brand-spankin’ new 2012 Focus.

While visiting the Green Mountain State…

I couldn’t be more pleased with the car; it handles well, looks good and is easy on the gas… during one of the trips out to New Hampshire I got almost 40mpg.   If I had been driving right at the speed limit I’m certain I would have.  Amazing how going 65 instead of 70 will impact your mileage.

As people have asked… “Why the Galileo plate?”

A few reasons:

1) Galileo is my favorite scientist. Astronomer, physicist, philosopher, heretic… there are many ways to admire him.  But I think the reason I like him the best is that by all accounts he possessed a biting, satiric, wicked sense of humor.  He is one of the four people I’d invite to my “dinner for five.”

2) Galileo was the name given to a shuttlecraft on the original Star Trek series, and my car sort of shares the stubby, wedgy look of that vehicle. As it did for thecrew of the Enterprise, it gets me where I’m headed quite reliably. Plus, it fits my geek nature quite well… although if you are reading this you probably realized that already.

Of course, my shuttle is black, but you get the idea.

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#41: Tashmoo!

Welcome to Tashmoo BiergartenYesterday my brother and I paid a visit to a very unique and uniquely Detroit institution: Tashmoo Biergarten. Even with Detroit getting such media coverage that it’s the place where the “cool kids” are congregating nowadays, it’s great to see that hype made tangible.

Tashmoo is a temporary, european-style biergarten set up on a couple of vacant lots in the West Village area of Detroit. Rows of long tables (made of old doors) and benches,  facilitate conversation with both friends and complete strangers alike.

In one corner there’s a makeshift bar serving Michigan brews — thanks, Tashmoo, for introducing me to Short’s ControversiALE — in another a couple of food vendors (we sampled some delicious pierogies including a special-for-Tashmoo pulled pork variety), and in another corner folks are playing games on the lawn.  Scattered atop the tables are checkers, chess and backgammon, plus several decks of cards.  Clearly, the intent is to hang out.

Cornhole tourney under way.

And that makes perfect sense given Tashmoo’s namesakes.  Tashmoo is: a native american word for “meeting place,” the name of an amusement park on Harsen’s Island, and a sidewheeler steamship that was at one time one of the fastest ships on the Great Lakes. The SS Tashmoo dropped off Detroiters at Tashmoo Park on its route between Detroit and Port Huron. Sadly, the amusement park closed in 1951, and the boat sunk off Amherstberg in 1936.  But Tashmoo lives on.

The brainchild of  Suzanne Vier and Aaron Wagner, the biergarten operated for three weekends last fall, but this Spring gathering was a one-weekend affair.  More weekends are planned for the fall, and I’m certain to be back, and thristy.

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Just ’cause something is checked off doesn’t mean I won’t stop doing it…

OK, so #60 is Vacation with Friends in Another State. Well, that was among the first things to check off, but most of the same group got together again in Chicago for our annual Winter Weekend, and it was a great time. That shot above is from our big dinner at Quartino — a very scrummy Italian small plates restaurant. Great food, and perfect with a big group. And we celebrated Eric’s 50th and David’s 49th birthdays to boot.

Visited the Apple Store to restore a sick iPhone.

But the weekend was filled with good food — pizza at Gino’s East, cupcakes at Sprinkles, even the Anaheim Scramble breakfast at Corner Bakery. Throw in trips to the Art Institute, the Magnificent Mile and drinks at the 95th floor of the Hancock Building. Even though the wind chills were at times less than balmy, hanging with all of these guys made the chilly Windy City quite warm after all.

America Windows at the Art Institute

Some Monet lilly pads for ya'

And all sorts of folks checking out Seurat.

Water Tower

The Signature Room: drinks at 95 flights up... waaay up.

Frankly fantastic cupcakes!

And lots...

... of peeps

... all having

... a great time.

Mr. H, the 50th earth-orbit celebrant, with a new piece of graffiti at Gino's (hey, everyone in attendance has been part of a Sunken Anchor production one way or another)

But this is my favorite photo of the weekend. The Affinia was a nice hotel, and the mirrored elevators were perfectly sized for cramming our group into... Let's title this one Reflections of Fun.

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