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September 2008 -- December 2008 Archive
(The Totter Turns 3)
Since helping Mary Morgan launch The Ann Arbor Chronicle in early September of this year, the ups and downs of the teeter tottering board have slowed their pace. But tottering has continued and the intent is that it will continue, I think, until I die.
In the last few weeks, I've received a couple of useful leads from readers for prospective riders. For that I'm grateful, because I have not been as attentive to rider recruitment as the enterprise currently requires--the project has not yet reached the point where folks are just queuing up to ride. Readers who have specific suggestions for how Teeter Talk could achieve that kind of appeal, or who have names and contact information for folks who could be coaxed into riding, or who would like to step forward to claim a spot in the pantheon of the community that totter alums define, are encouraged to send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
To get a quick overview of that group, I constructed a single page with all the portraits.
If you scroll all the way to the bottom of that chronologically sorted list, you'll see the first alum of the totter: Rene Greff. Note the date on that ride. Today, thus marks the third anniversary of Teeter Talk. Thanks to all the riders and the readers alike, who've made this possible.
(What Rhymes with Potter?)
Many readers of
Teeter Talk will have surely seen Yourist Pottery Gallery's sign from the Plymouth Road side as they've headed into or out of Ann Arbor across Broadway Bridge.
A smaller number will have seen the signage from the more lightly traveled Broadway Street side. And some readers will have also seen the place from the inside. Last Friday, I took the totter to the potter: Kay Yourist.
Navigating a 12-foot long board amongst some really pretty pottery is not for the faint of heart. But we managed to do it without wrecking the place, preserving the perfect safety record of the totter to date.
Skeptics who think I must have busted a pot or two are invited to verify for themselves that the floor is not littered with shards of broken pots--when Yourist Pottery hosts its annual holiday sale. The opening reception for that (including wine and appetizers) is Friday, 5 December from 6pm-9pm.
Off the totter, Kay related a great story about her first wheel--she bartered it away when she was short of the cash that she needed to pay the entry fee to the Ann Arbor art fair. But clearly, she's got it back now--that's the wheel in the photograph included here. For details on how she got it back, ask Kate herself. (Note: The pot she's throwing as a demonstration in the photo is visible only to the pure of heart.)
On the totter, the potter talked about the new kiln that has to be closed and opened one brick at a time, plus the teapot (it's functional) shown here, and her first wheel, which I was delighted to discover is human-powered.
In the Talk you can also read about and see a photograph of a first-time ever execution on the Teeter Talk totter of a perfect float.
(Gearing up to Feed the Hungry: What are you Crankful for?)
Fresh off organizing a Halloween-themed alley cat bicycle race (Night of the Living Tread III), alum of the Totter, Jimmy Raggett, sent along an announcement of another local alley-cat style race coming up on Sunday, 23 November (signup at 3:00pm at the Main Street entrance of Bandemer Park): Cranksgiving.
This is the second year of Cranksgiving in Ann Arbor, which Andy H. has organized to benefit Food Gatherers. And that should please another alum of the Totter, Eileen Spring, who directs that non-profit.
For readers unfamiliar with alley-cat style races, the concept is somewhat like a scavenger hunt on bicycles. In the case of Cranksgiving, the items to be scavenged are non-perishable food items purchased at various local grocery retailers. Participants will need to spend $10-20 in order to make all their purchases to prove they visited the stores on the race route. At the finish line, the food gets handed over to Food Gatherers.
Participants will need a way to carry a modest quantity of food. (I don't think it's going to to fit in the cargo pockets of your knickers, not matter how stretchy they are). For citizen folk in Ann Arbor area grocery stores on Sunday afternoon, if there's a guy behind you in line wearing a bike helmet who's about to cough up a lung from the physical effort of pedaling around town trying to win cool prizes and benefit Food Gatherers at the same time, well, maybe think about letting that guy go ahead of you. He'll be crankful for the gesture.
Regular readers of this website seem to be exactly that: readers as opposed to visitors looking to do something besides spending some time reading. I figure those readers spend little time watching television, which is a shame, because there's so much awfully great stuff to watch that I wish I had more time to watch TV. It's a disappointment to me that this fall season I haven't had a chance to watch a single episode of the Cute GirlRobot Show (a.k.a. The Sarah Connor Chronicles ... seriously, where did you think the inspiration for the name came from for the other publication I work on?)
But I did have a chance to turn on the TV recent long enough to see an ad for Shazam, a company that seems to have partnered with iPhone to help people figure out what song it is they're listening to. Here's how it works as near as I can tell: let your iPone listen to some music and SHAZAM it tells you what song it is ... and where to buy it.
This will all sound familiar to the real readers of Teeter Talk--the dedicated souls who've read every word from the very beginning almost three years ago. They will remember Steve Glauberman talking about exactly this sort of thing on the totter ... in 2005. It could well have been Shazam that Glauberman was talking about.
But my point is not that Teeter Talk gets you all your tech-innovation news before anyone else. It's that Shazam is pretty much the opposite of everything that Teeter Talk stands for. Teeter Talk is not about letting a software algorithm figure out what song you're listening to. Teeter Talk is about getting some dude who knows what song it is to tell you what song you're listening to. Best possible case scenario is when you have the guy who's playing the song sitting right there in front of you on your teeter totter and you just ask him, "What the hell was that?" Robert Droppleman (bagpipes) and John Floyd (violin) were both happy to oblige with the answer.
But how do you scale up that method so that it works anytime that anybody needs an answer? Answer: you don't. It doesn't scale. Which is exactly the point. The approach is fundamentally on the human scale. It doesn't scale, because a teeter totter is not, ahem, a scale, even though it resembles one and could be adapted to weigh stuff.
In conclusion, the human scale enforced by the teeter totter has the somewhat unhappy effect that the cute girlrobot from the Sarah Connor Chronicles is not a candidate for a teeter totter ride. But that still leaves plenty of other human folks who would be great candidates.
(Diversity on the Totter)
With the departure of Stephen Kunselman, Joan Lowenstein, and Chris Easthope from Ann Arbor's city council, the ranks of totter alums on that body were halved. Remaining are Leigh Greden, John Hieftje, and Stephen Rapundalo. But Carsten Hohnke, newly elected representative for Ward 5, boosts the number of totter alums on council back to four.
Percentage-wise, though, the slide from six to four means that totter alums no longer represent a majority on council. And that means that we've got a majority of folks on council who may not have any sense of balance. I am deeply troubled on behalf of our community by this trend.
I would feel more comfortable if everyone on city council were an alum of the totter. I don't think it would be such a bad idea to think about adding an eligibility requirement: candidates for any local Ann Arbor office are required to ride the teeter totter.
But in looking to the future, I'm not going to make a concentrated effort to recruit the seven non-teetering councilmembers to ride--they're plenty welcome, don't get me wrong. But I think I'll heed the caution that Joan Lowenstein gave at her final council meeting. The makeup of city council, she said, doesn't necessarily reflect the diversity of the Ann Arbor community and those who serve on that body need to be mindful to represent those whose experiences they might not necessarily share. The ridership of the totter is meant to reflect as much as possible the rich diversity of the community. So I'm not going to focus on "completing the set" of councilmembers, but rather on working towards the goal of conversations across the whole community.
I'm going to begin by reflecting on the fact that I have afforded the chicken a privileged status on the totter over the last year. What if anything, I wonder, do I have against other farm animals? The included photo (from heiwa4126's Flickr photostream) of the teetering cow is a small step towards rectifying this apparent prejudice. [Thanks to Bill Tozier for sending along the photo.]
With Thanksgiving on the near horizon, I think it'd be fun to ride with a turkey--a turkey totter, if you will. So if there's any readers out there who can hook me up with a turkey, I'd sure appreciate a heads up. And no, I'm not kidding.
There's an Open Totter policy for Teeter Talk, which means that I'll pretty much totter with anyone who's willing. When political candidates totter during an election, I try to make sure that there's equal opportunity for tottering all around.
Having tottered with Carsten Hohnke back in September, it was thus fitting and proper that I took a turn with John Floyd a couple of weeks ago. While I'm satisfied to have tottered with both Ward 5 city council candidates before Election Day, I'd like to extend my apologies to readers for not turning around the transcript for John's Talk in a more timely fashion. As a way of partly compensating for the delay, that Talk includes a rare departure from the usual text-only practice: some bonus audio of John's fiddle playing right there on the teeter totter.
Note: As a matter of practice, Teeter Talk has never endorsed candidates for political office, and The Ann Arbor Chronicle continues this approach. For additional information on the two candidates, visit their websites:
Carsten Hohnke's campaign website
John Floyd's campaign website
Back in the early days of Teeter Talk, I did a "virtual totter ride" with a guy out in California named
Scott Schnaars. We conducted the Talk via Yahoo! chat, because that's the company he worked for at the time. Now he works for Socialtext. Not very long after Scott's virtual ride, his wife, Holly, was diagnosed with colon cancer. After
aggressive surgical treatment and chemotherapy, Scott and Holly had a sigh of relief after the latest round of test results from August of this year.
Summarized that way in two sentences, Holly's story is neat and tidy and has a happy end. Since Holly's diagnosis, I've had on my mental white board of potential totter guests someone who would climb aboard--not just virtually--and talk about colon cancer. I didn't have a particular person in mind. But that person turned out to be Bridget Weise Knyal.
Bridget's story of her husband Jarrett's illness is neither neat nor tidy, nor did it have a happy end a little less than a year ago. Part of that story involves the binder of explanations of benefits received from the Knyal's health insurance company along the way. Part of it involves looking back at the why's and the what-if's. Part of it involves looking forward to a future returning to the workforce. The important part, though, is now, whenever now happens to be.
The now of two weeks ago was tottering with Bridget (and Violet) on my front porch. This Talk is like all the rest of them--not neat and tidy, served up rough edges and all. And now that the Talk is published, readers can read about that now.
If Dawn Lovejoy's Talk was sponsored by the letter "Y", then the Talk with Neal Kelley and Jameson Tamblyn was sponsored ... also by the letter "Y". Neal and Jameson are both seniors at Huron High School in Ann Arbor, yet found themselves over on the western part of town last Sunday in front of the new YMCA. That's where the Youth Council meets, a body they co-chair. Don't know what the Youth Council is? Read their Talk and find out.
If Elizabeth Parkinson's Talk was sponsored by the letter "Q," then it's fair to say that Dawn Lovejoy's Talk was sponsored by the letter "Y". Read her Talk for more insight into that, plus get a possible answer to the question: What serves as the true motivation for some bicycle racers? Here's some choices to mull over before reading Dawn's Talk:
- fame and glory
- cash money
- fruit confections
- fear of humiliation
- a brand new car
Plus, I'd like to thank Dawn on behalf of The Ann Arbor Chronicle for walking the course with me during her team's race at the Priority Health Cycling Classic on Sept. 7 and providing much of the insight that went into the Chronicle's write-up of that event.
(Connections to the Totter)
As a preview to the next Talk, (which is not being published today) I offer a random connection made in the last month to a previous Talk. This connection was made at the Priority Health cycling race held in downtown Ann Arbor on 7 September.
I was busy documenting the road rash sustained by Laura Johnson (on the left in the photo) during her race when one of her teammates asked me, "Are you Dave?" After confirming my identity, Laura's teammate went on to explain that she was friends with Dale Winling and Kate Bosher, two alums of the totter. But the random connection to the totter goes a little deeper than just being friends with Dale and Kate. Laura's teammate, Ms. Ferris (on the right in the photo), called Kate during Kate's ride, which is faithfully transcribed as a part of Kate's Talk. So, as Ms. Ferris put it, "I'm in there!"
I refer to Ms. Ferris with this stilted formula of "Ms. Ferris" only because I think that if readers are curious to know what her first name is, they should go to the trouble to review Kate's Talk. That link takes modern browsers directly to the point in the Talk where the phone call arrives.
(What are the Financial Markets Doing?)
As reported in the Ann Arbor Chronicle, last week a dozen distinguished alumni from the University of Michigan Department of Economics gathered for a panel discussion to discuss the current financial crisis. What was crucially missing from the article published by The Chronicle was a characterization of current market conditions made by Linda Tesar, chair and professor of economics at the University of Michigan.
How did Professor Tesar conclude her statement?
- roller coastering along.
- swinging back-and-forth.
- yo-yoing up and down.
- sliding into oblivion.
- pogo-sticking along.
- none of these.
The correct answer is (f.) none of these. And I figure nobody reading this publication really needs to be told what she said.
Conan Smith tottered with me the day after Christmas in 2005 and at the time he was the County Board of Commissioners' representative to the Washtenaw Development Council, which was then merging with SPARK, another economic development entity. Because I figured Conan might have some clout on this issue, I suggested to him on the totter that the name SPARK could be changed to SPARQ. I think pretty much anything with a "K" or a "C" sound could be improved by replacement with a "Q".
A couple of weeks ago, I took another shot at the name change while tottering with Elizabeth Parkinson, who is Managing Director of Marketing and Public Relations for SPARK. Long story short, that's a name change that's not going to happen. But we did talk a lot about names on the totter--nicknames, company names, event names. We covered everything from Kentucky Fried Chicken (Elizabeth Parkinson used to work on their account) to SPARK's Entrepreneur Boot Camp.
Elizabeth seemed open to the possibility of re-naming the Boot Camp to something else. So that's where readers of Teeter Talk and The Chronicle can help. Come up with an alternative name for Boot Camp. Here, I'll get things started: Entrepreneur Boot Qamp.
I met Carsten Hohnke for the first time back in the spring when he was walking the street collecting signatures so that he could appear on the ballot for the Ward 5 city council primary election. You don't get to visit my street with a clipboard without my trying to harrass you into riding my teeter totter. Carsten stopped by again later in the campaign and had actually noodled through a set of different spots around Ann Arbor that might have some symbolic value for a possible Totter 2.0 on-location ride.
In the end, we opted for my front porch. As for the other locations, I'll leave Teeter Talk readers to speculate on those that Carsten proposed. Or if you bump into him, that can be an opening conversational gambit: "So, Carsten, where did you wanna totter?"
We talked about process engineering, flying airplanes, doodles on ballots ... and zeitgeist. Read Carsten's Talk.
(Tottering to Continue)
Publication of new Talks will resume shortly. I needed a short respite to launch The Ann Arbor Chronicle. That's an ambitious project: local news, not just about teeter totters, brought to you in an online format on a daily basis. Mary Morgan, who inspired the tune, Teeter Totter Bride (available on CD with a bunch of other novelties) and is in fact my actual bride, will be providing adult supervision at The Chronicle.
(Four More Years)
The teeter totter that I call Totter Classic turns 4 today. Happy Birthday to you, Totter Classic. When you were first born, you thought it was just going to be an occasional ride by Mary and me. But a little over a year later, you were pressed into service for Teeter Talk. And you've held up under the collective weight of over 150 different riders, with only minor squeaks of complaint. That's something like 9 metric tons worth of butt you've supported, without shedding a splinter into any of them--as far as I'm aware. Good job. (So far).
TT Log Archives:
|2010||October to present|
|2008||September, October, November, December|
|2007||July, August, September|
|2006-2007||December, January, February|
|2006||September, October, November|
|2006||June, July, August|
|2005-2006||December, January, February, March, April, May|
NB: All totterees are already listed in the left hand column (in chronological order). What is available in the TT Log Archives are just the log entries.