This website is accident-free, with 187 teeter totter rides and zero recordable injuries.


Links to Last 10 Talks

Bill Merrill

Chris Carey

Jim Ottaviani

Dante Chinni

Robb Johnston

Nick Prueher

Steve Bean

Devon Persing

Gareth Morgan

Brian Kerr

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December 2006 -- February 2007 Permanent Archive

permanent link 25 February 2007 (All the way from New Jersey)
Gina Pensiero is not a graffiti artist. And I think it's fair to say that her Burners and Bombs blog documenting graffiti art is not her number one priority at the moment. But it was a link to the graffiti creator on that blog that led me to create the image below, so that's why I even mention it.

Back to Gina. If she's not a graffiti artist, well then what does she do? There's a bit of insight in Gina's Talk.

Totter Graffiti

permanent link 20 February 2007 (Year of the Pig)
We've just entered the Year of the Pig according to the Chinese zodiac. Teeter Trotter In fact, it's a special Year of the Pig because it coincides with a Gold Year, which makes this the Year of the Golden Pig.

The pigs enjoying a ride over there to the left are not golden, but they're special nonetheless, because by virtue of where they're standing, they're teeter trotters. Now, usage of 'trotters' to designate pigs specifically and hoofed animals in general might not be widespread enough to be easily recognizeable to many readers, so I'll just tell you: a 'trotter' may refer to any hooved animal, in particular to a pig. There, now everyone can laugh along. Unless you don't like word play ... in which case, the reference might have come off as a ham-handed linguistic flourish. That's fine, not everyone likes their bacon fried on the same side.

This ten-inch-long desktop totter was crafted from poplar with dark-walnut Danish oil applied. Actual walnut would look better. Anybody know where I can score some walnut wood? Michigan-grown would be great. Independent of appearance, this device can be used quite effectively to launch small objects (e.g., rubber pigs) catapult-style in a nice gentle arc at a targets of choice.

permanent link 18 February 2007 (Tottering through a snow storm)
Last Tuesday afternoon the forecasted snowstorm had arrived in full force in Ann Arbor, so I was glad the totter was snugly wrapped in its tarp. A canvasser knocked on the door with a clipboard in his hand, and he gave me his standard Sierra Club campaign pitch against global warming (yeah, there was some irony there, what with the blizzard conditions outside). So I did what I do whenever anyone knocks on the door--I gave Pete my standard pitch for riding the teeter tottter. In over a year of giving this pitch to various folks who've knocked on the door representing various groups--from Jehovah's Witnesses, to Clean Water Action, to the Green Party, to Friends of the Doves--nobody has taken me up on the offer of a ride even on some sunny and pleasant days. But that doesn't particularly surprise me. It's not like I have a glossy brochure to hand them. So to most people, I imagine it feels like some creepy old dude trying to coax them into the backyard, out of view, out of earshot, etc. But last Tuesday, Pete J. proved his canvassing mettle by hopping aboard the frozen lumber in blizzard conditions. The Talk is a bit abbreviated as Talks go. But for, um, Pete's sake, it was cold and snowy!

permanent link 14 February 2007 (Using Teeter Totters to Sell Cars)
I think I've identified an odd trend in automotive marketing. First it was the Hyundai using a human teeter totter to promote their Sante Fe (cf. the 18 January entry). Now it's Toyota promoting their Tundra using a teeter totter.

Toyota Tundra Teeter Totter

I wonder, though, about the label 'Toyota Tundra See Saw' on YouTube. What with all the T's just lying around ... Toyota ... Tundra ... not to mention Truck ... it's hard for me to fathom not riding that alliterative train all the way to teeter-totter-ville.

permanent link 9 February 2007 (Green Roofs at the University of Michigan)
The cold-temperature Teeter Talk record set by Diane Ratkovich lasted exactly one ride. U of M undergrad Liza Wallis set a new standard (10F), when she braved the cold to talk about a green roof project that she and some fellow students have proposed.

permanent link 8 February 2007 (The Library and the Newspaper)
Back in May of last year Ann Arbor District Library Director, Josie Parker, talked on the totter about the challenges associated with digital archiving of the local newspaper, The Ann Arbor News. Things didn't sound very optimistic at that time. But not very long after the ride, Josie gave me a heads up that the Ann Arbor District Library had an archive of the Ann Arbor News available online (from the comfort of your own home) dating from 1 July 2004 forward. Yesterday when Mark Maynard lamented the short 14-day archive of the newspaper's own MLive.com hosted site, I was reminded I had neither tested the library's archive out nor logged that bit of progress here. Done and done. Sorry for the long delay.

permanent link 7 February 2007 (New Comic)
Back in December, it did occur to me that it might be interesting to post a year-end summary breakdown of the different Talks by how frequently the pages had been accessed. But because the software I use to generate web traffic reports offers analysis by day, and by month, but nothing longer-term, this would have required some additional work. Just eyeballing it, though, the most-viewed Talk in the collection so far is last year's ride with T. Casey Brennan.

A more significant recent triumph for T. Casey is the inclusion of his 'Hypothetical Cerebus' in the new ACTOR Comics volume. The cover of this 152-page collection, adorned with the Incredible Hulk and Spiderman, is easy to spot on the rack at Vault of Midnight on Main Street in downtown Ann Arbor. Been a while since you peeked inside a comic book? If you're looking for an excuse, then the fact that you'd be supporting a downtown business and a local writer (among other comic book veterans) could serve as one. T. Casey Brennan Comic

permanent link 6 February 2007 (Real Estate)
Pfizer announced recently that it's closing down its research and development facility in Ann Arbor, thus removing around 2000 jobs from the regional economy. Preliminary reports are that at least some Pfizer workers will be offered placement in other Pfizer locations. That's a cold dose of reality for the real estate market. But not colder than the temperature during the the totter ride that Realtor®, Diane Ratkovich, took last week. She set a new cold-temperature record at 12F degrees.

permanent link 2 February 2007 (Good Citizens)
There's more to being a good citizen than voting. In his Talk, Peter Thomason elaborates on sustainable living, the kingdom of love, and the end of life. There's plenty of specific discussion of chickens as well.

permanent link 31 January 2007 (Graduating Senior)
On 2 January 2007, University of Michigan senior, Iden Baghdadchi, marked the occasion of his birthday. It wasn't ordinary.

permanent link 25 January 2007 (Moving far away, you wind up closer)

Back at the end of the summer, Brandon Zwagerman stopped by for a totter ride in a

Ann Arbor satellite shot
Brooklyn satellite shot

minivan packed with everything he owned, leaving Ann Arbor, heading for Brooklyn. Lou Rosenfeld is heading away from here as well. Lou didn't stop by for his totter ride literally on his way out of town. And he's lived in Ann Arbor a lot longer than Brandon did. But Lou and his family are headed for the same place as Brandon: Brooklyn.

In the top image, the mighty Huron River is visible coursing roughly southeastward across the upper quadrants. In the upper left quadrant of the bottom image, you can see Manhattan nosing its way out into Upper New York Bay

Thus, the top image locates Brandon and Lou's respective Ann Arbor homes.

Straight-line distance: 1 mile

And the bottom image locates their respective Brooklyn homes.

Straight-line distance: .4 miles

Moral: Leaving Ann Arbor brings people closer together. By a factor greater than two.

Disclaimer: For Brandon's Brooklyn location, I'm using his initial 3-month sublet. He's moved out of there now. But his new address doesn't make the same point. I mention this not only in the interest of accuracy, but also because I would not want anyone to indulge in the speculation that Lou picked that location in order to be close to Brandon. As best I know, they're not acquainted.

But given the close proximity of Lou's new place in Brooklyn to Prospect Park, what I am willing to speculate is that one reason he picked that location was because he's afraid he'd miss his tree, a Camperdown Elm [just follow the link and look at the picture with its caption] in his Ann Arbor front yard. No kidding, he talks about the tree and more right there in his Talk.


permanent link 23 January 2007 (Sound)
My next-door neighbor reported that when she showed Teeter Talk to a fifteen-year old, his response was, Blogs are for old people; young people don't read. I have to say, a lot of old people don't read much, either. That's fine. I'm still fairly committed to the text-based presentational premise of Teeter Talk. Among the virtues of text is that it's inherently searchable and is thus to some extent automatically findable. So I don't envision providing audio of the Talks anytime soon. But thanks to a suggestion from Murph to invite Bob Droppleman to ride the totter, I'm convinced that just this once I need to share a sound bite of a totter ride. Make sure your speakers are turned on. Now, head on over to the Talk with Bob Droppleman.

permanent link 20 January 2007 (Thank God You're Here)
When Nyima and Josh Funk tottered over the holiday break, Nyima talked about a pilot she'd done for a new improvised TV comedy show called Thank God You're Here. She was hoping it would be picked up by NBC. I've said it before and I'll say it again: wishes told on the totter come true. NBC has announced that they've ordered six episodes. Good job, Nyima!

permanent link 19 January 2007 (Toy Totter)
The quiet week on the totter has given me a little extra time to prepare for an after-school tutoring program I'll be helping out with soon. We've been advised that the first order of business is to to attend to homework, but it's also been stressed that it's important to have a backup plan for the occasions when there is no homework or it's finished early. The backup plan is supposed to be more than just fun and games. It's supposed to have solid academic and educational value. One veteran tutor suggested that especially for younger kids, tactile activities with academic content would be better received than paper-and-pencil exercises. My backup plan: The Law of the Lever.

Educational teeter totter

The image above shows a two-foot long desktop teeter totter I crafted out of pieces of poplar block and dowel (for scale, the coin in the foreground is a quarter). The extra-large nuts were sourced from the small parts room at Stadium Hardware. Yes, I know: you can't just dive right into the Law of the Lever with a second-grader. So for second-graders, it might just be a way to drill multiplication facts. For readers who think LoL only means laugh-out-loud, and not also Law of the Lever, the image depicts the following state of affairs:

3 inches times 3 nuts = 9 inches times 1 nut.

1 nut. A nut. Sometimes you feel like a nut. But sometimes you don't. Anybody have some candy? We were advised not to give the students candy. Hmmm, now I wonder ... do second graders even know how to do multiplication?? Will I be assigned a second-grader or a sixth-grader?? No worries. All I have to remember is stay flexible. And focused.

permanent link 18 January 2007 (Shape of a totter)
In the the new Hyundai commercial featuring the dance troupe Pilobolus, human teeter totter what strikes me as the most interesting move is not forming the outline of the Hyundai Santa Fe, but rather the human teeter totter board previewed in the image here. I suppose I have a bit of a one-track mind, but seriously it's the best part of the commerical. Watch it and judge for yourself.

Mind you, I still like my standard issue totter made from lumber way better. Why? Well, I'm fond of saying, It takes two to totter. But for Pilobolus, it's fair to say, It takes four (maybe five ... I can't really tell) to totter. Just doesn't have the same punch, does it?


permanent link 16 January 2007 (Quiet Week)
It's going to be a quiet week on the totter. Teetering is due to resume this weekend. In the meantime, here's some miscellaneous musings.

First, I've gained some additional insight into Charlie Slick. I provided Charlie with some White Castle cheeseburgers to snack on during his totter ride, because I came across an odd video of him eating White Castle burgers with chopsticks, and I figured that he might appreciate the burgers. What I didn't realize at the time (and discovered only yesterday) is that Charlie has composed a song about the wonder of White Castle, which you must hear to appreciate. (In any event, it's my assumption that it's Charlie's work. It's hidden away under what amounts to an alternate MySpace page as near as I can tell.) Just choose the fourth track in the StandAlone Player and you'll be treated to something of a rap anthem about those delicious square patties.

I peeked under the totter tarp this morning to verify that it stayed dry through the ice storm. The totter tarp was an innovation added after tottering almost exactly a year ago with Chris Easthope. If you check the condition of the board in that photo, you'll understand why we had to break out the cardboard seat pads.

The Fox Network aired the premiere of '24' over the last couple of nights. If your idea of good clean fun is watching Jack Bauer take a chomp out of a bad guy's throat and spit out a mouthful of neck meat, then '24' is the show for you. That TV series reminds me of Joan Lowenstein--that is, it reminds me of the conversation we had about the show while riding the totter. At the time, she was hoping for a story arc that would illuminate Edgar's character. A couple of episodes after that, Edgar died in a poison gas attack. I wonder if this season Joan was hoping for a plot development that prominently featured Jack's colleague, Curtis. (For non-viewers, in the fourth hour of the season, Jack blew his buddy Curtis away to save a terrorist-turned-peacemaker ... because Jack Bauer is One. Bad. Ass.)

permanent link 12 January 2007 (Same Planet, Different Axis)
Charlie Slick and I discussed on the totter that we'd heard The Planet was closing down its brick-and-mortar operation. Walking downtown the other night through a snow squall, I ran into Adam de Angeli. He brought me up to date on The Planet. Long story short: not closing. He found a group of folks to split the lease, and sometime soon you can expect to see The Planet (still on North Main Street) in a new incarnation.

But you might not find Adam at the store from 5-6pm Monday through Friday. He might well be in the same spot I ran into him: standing outside the Federal Building on Liberty Street, protesting the war in Iraq. The flyer being distributed by a woman named Libby describes a goal of 1000 people a day at that spot. Recognizing it might be difficult to find 1000 people willing to show up every day, the pitch to folks is to pick one day a month to show up and protest. That would be an operation involving 20,000 people, or just 4% of Washtenaw County's population. Put that way, it seems a bit more tractable.

permanent link 8 January 2007 (The writing on the wall)
Last January, having tottered with Tom Bourque a couple of weeks previously, Power Gel Vanilla I joined him and the Nasty Boys Glee Club for a Saturday morning run. My attendance record on these runs over the last year has not been stellar, but I've managed to haul myself out of bed on the occasional Saturday morning. Last Saturday, I received my commemorative first anniversary award from Tom, which is shown in the image to the left.

Mmmm, vanilla. My favorite flavor of PowerGel. Seriously, it is.

Now the thing about vanilla-flavored PowerGel is, sure, it's vanilla flavored, but a few minutes after you suck it down, you feel that boost of energy that tells you it's not plain vanilla.

And that serves as an apt analogy for describing Charlie Slick. He might look like an average guy, but a few minutes after he's launched himself into his live synthesizer extravaganza, you realize he's anything but plain vanilla. Anyway, there's apparently some curiosity locally about who Charlie is.

This curiosity is attested by the image below, which I found Charlie Slick Bathroom Scrawl while researching local examples of trough-style urinals ... but that's a whole 'nother story, which might be told in greater detail later. For now, I'll focus on sating Ann Arborites' hunger for information about Charlie. When you read Charlie's Talk, your curiosity might not be completely satisfied about exactly who he is, but you will find that his expertise extends far beyond synthesizers--to plants and cats, for example.

But if you're looking for an explanation of the plate of White Castle cheeseburgers he's holding in his picture, you won't find it in the Talk. No particular reason we didn't talk about the miracle of White Castle burgers ... I just forgot.

Happy New Year.

permanent link 2 January 2006 (The Shiz: the husband and wife edition)
There's a video that's been posted on YouTube since November from the Kanye West episode of Nick Cannon's Wild 'N Out, which was apparently never actually aired on MTV. Here's what one YouTube commenter had to say about it:

cutheron (1 week ago)
that big white guy is the shiz

What can I say ... except that big white guy, Josh Funk, is the shiz. And I base that assessment not just on his powers of improvisational acting, but on his teeter totter riding prowess. And in this, I depart from my usual practice of not singling out totterees as extraordinarily good or bad totterers. But for heaven's sake, from my end of the totter, Totter Weights it was the easiest ride in the history of Teeter Talk, so I feel like I ought to give Josh his due. And I say it was the easiest ride ever, even though I was sitting atop 50 pounds of cold steel, which I had loaded onto the totter to help with the balance ... the Law of the Lever has its limits. Now, to be perfectly honest, Josh is not that big. And if he'd been tottering solo, I wouldn't have needed the extra 50 pounds of counterweight. But perched on the totter oppposite me along with Josh was his lovely bride, Nyima Funk, who, I daresay, is also the shiz. In spite of the extra weight, the balance of the totter was still tilted in Nyima and Josh's favor, so it was pretty much left to Josh's quads of steel to keep their end up. And that he did.

As you read their Talk, if you find that Nyima and Josh don't sound like superficial show business people, that might be because they're from around here. And that helps explain how they wound up in my backyard two days after Christmas. Because people who live in Los Angeles wouldn't make the trek out to Michigan just to ride my teeter totter ... or would they?

permanent link 27 December 2006 (When all you've got's a hammer, everything looks like ... a patient)
When I think of hammers, the first name that comes to mind is John Henry, the steel drivin' man, immortalized in American legend and song. After that I tend to think of carpenters ... and perhaps communists. Somewhere way down the list are neurologists. But after tottering with neurologist Zach London, a re-ranking might be appropriate. Of course, there's more to Dr. London's Talk than just reflex hammers. For example, if you're a drug company rep, you'll learn that you're not going to be able to buy him lunch, even if that lunch includes hard tacos.

permanent link 22 December 2006 (Green Rims)
I met Jimmy Raggett when I spotted his request on Bluish Barn for volunteers to staff checkpoints for a bicycle race. As the organizer of that event, he didn't ride it himself, but as he demonstrates in the photograph below, he's quite good on the bike. Not to mention that his early morning ride set a low-temperature Teeter Talk record of 21F, which is 4 degrees colder that the previous mark shared by René Greff and Joan Lowenstein. And those rims really are that green.

Jimmy Raggett cycles the tottter

permanent link 19 December 2006 (Just hangin')
Getting the world's clothes clean in a way that keeps the planet spinning properly on its axis doesn't seem that hard. Indeed, an individual can act almost immediately on this issue by hang-drying their clothes instead of using a gas or electric clothes dryer. The washing part is a bit harder. But at least in the short term, without yet aspiring to build a community-based effort for clothes-washing by human power, I'm willing to act solo by doing a demonstration load for anyone who wants to share their dirty laundry with me. Seriously. I mean, if it turns out that hundreds of people are taking advantage of this offer, maybe then I'll have to reconsider. For now, bring it on. What seems a lot harder than using green methods to remove laundry stains, is achieving something like equal justice for Palestinians and Israelis. How does that hang together with laundry? Well, they're not unrelated. For details, read the Talk with Aimee Smith, Co-Chair of the Huron Valley Greens.

permanent link 14 December 2006 (Year One)
This enterprise was set in motion on 9 December 2005 when René Greff launched herself onto the frozen lumber of the teeter totter. Exactly one year later, Matt Greff matched the effort of his lovely bride.

Briefly put, it's been a great first year. Thanks to everyone for riding. Thanks to everyone for reading. Here's to another year of tottering!

permanent link 12 December 2006 (Blur)
I didn't think I'd ever met Dale Winling before teeter tottering with him last Saturday. But in the course of tottering, it became apparent that we'd possibly crossed paths sometime in the late 90's. What I know for sure is that I ran a 400M leg of a track relay medley as a part of some kind of indoor UM track and field intramural event around about that time frame. The opening leg was 800M. I have a vague recollection of waiting for my turn to run and watching some guy leading the field around the first 3 of the four 200M laps on that opening leg, and then, to his utter chagrin, getting passed by the guy who'd been sitting on his shoulder the whole time. I'm not going to research it further to confirm, because there's a faint possibility that I'd wind up confirming it was not him. I don't remember the guy who got passed wearing a bow tie, for example, which proves nothing, but certainly it's a data point. So I'm basking in the blur of the memory, and settling into believing that guy was Dale ... because it makes a way better tale from the totter. Read the Talk, judge for yourself.

Memories aren't the only thing that can be blurred. Below is the result of Dale's pinhole photography experiment showing his view down the totter. I'm rather fond of it. The fence is discernable to the right. The bright part on the left, that's the totter board. The roughly vertical dark blob in the left half, that's me. If you stand up and step across the room away from your monitor, it clears up. A little.

Tottering Pinhole

permanent link 5 December 2006 (DIY)
Just a heads up that more complete documentation of the laundry spinner is now available stashed under this link: pedal-powered laundry spinner.



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