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

Complete link list
of all the Talks


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October 2007 -- November 2007 Archive

permanent link30 November 2007

(Fortress Party Preview)

Last year on Christmas Day, I tottered with Zach London, a University of Michigan neurologist who has resolved: "I will write and record one song a month, every month, until I am dead." And on the first day of every month Zach publishes the MP3 file along with a Digest on The Hard Taco Project. Tomorrow's edition of the Hard Taco Project will make exactly one year's worth of Hard Taco Project tunes and Digests that I've enjoyed since Zach's ride.

On the first of the month, every month without fail, for 11 months in a row, the Hard Taco Digest with a link to an MP3 file has appeared in my email Inbox. It's never failed to make me laugh out loud.

Sign up to receive The Hard Taco Digest and you'll be giving yourself a holiday gift that is going to keep on giving once a month, every month ... until Zach is dead.

I'm heading over to Zach's house tomorrow evening for something he calls Fortress Party. He's wrapped Totter 2.0 into it. More later.

permanent link28 November 2007

(Trevor Skates the Totter)

If you think of skateboarders as just a bunch of unruly punks running wild in the streets, then think again. As this photo shows, they're a bunch of unruly punks running wild in my backyard ... on my teeter totter ... on skateboard on a teeter totterThanksgiving Day. Ann Arbor needs a skatepark ... to keep these punks offa my totter, dammit!

More seriously, Trevor Staples, who is huckin' the big air over the totter in this image, is not an unruly punk. In addition to teaching elementary school, he is working as a part of the Ann Arbor Skatepark Action Committee to realize a vision of a skatepark for Ann Arbor and its surrounding communities.

For an update on how things stand with Ann Arbor's future skatepark, a glimpse into Ann Arbor's cultural scene during the 1980's, plus Trevor's take on fake turkey and other meats, read Trevor's Talk.

permanent link26 November 2007

(Mittenfest)

Brandon Zwagerman has not yet begun the full-on media blizzard for this season's follow-up to last year's Mittenfest. But it's not too early to mark your calendars for Mittenfest II:

Mittenfest II, Act One Friday, 21 December, Blind Pig (Ann Arbor)
Mittenfest II, Act Two Saturday, 22 December, Corner Brewery (Ypsilanti)
Mittenfest II, Act Three Saturday, 22 December, Elbow Room (Ypsilanti)

Mittenfest II by the numbers: 2 years, plus 3 venues, plus 2 cities, plus 2 days, plus 21 acts, plus 2 thumbs on each mitten ... up, naturally ... equals 32.

permanent link22 November 2007

(Michigan, Maryland, Georgia, and Germany)


What is this photo about? If you don't know the people sitting there on the couch, it could very well be about a bare left foot. But I know the people sitting there. In fact, I'm one of them.

Christophorusweg Wohngemeinschaft
[clockwise] HD, Hassan, Fraidun, Brian, Uli, Marc, Schorse, Anke, David, Gundel

So I can tell you for sure that ... it's about a bare left foot. Or at least, it's about the guy the bare left foot is attached to.

The photo was taken 20 years ago in the common area of a six-person living community of the Chrisophorusweg dormitory in Göttingen, Germany. At that time it was West Germany. When I moved in, I joined Fraidun and Hassan (both from Afghanistan), Marc (Eisdorf), Schorse (Osterode), and Gundel (Osterode).

The photo also includes Brian (my best friend from high school who was taking a break from his studies in Hannover), Uli (Gundel's partner), and Anke (subletting from Marc).

That leaves the gentleman with the bare left foot unaccounted for. His name is David Paul. My recollection is pretty murky, but I think he began subletting from Schorse sometime while Brian and I were cycling to Portugal. To be quite honest, I'm not sure how he came to be there in the apartment. I'm pretty sure it was a pure accident that he had just graduated from the same university as I had one year prior (Washington U. in St. Louis). I do recall with near certainty that David showed me how to play the chords to John Mellencamp's Jack and Diane, and with absolute certainty that he assured me I was destined to become a rock and roll legend.

Sporadic correspondence over the last twenty years has kept David and me in some sort of loose touch. It recently dawned on David that he has a brother, Mike, who makes an annual pilgrimage of sorts to Ann Arbor to watch a U of M football game--a tradition borne out of the grad school days Mike spent in Georgia with a Grand Rapids native. So David pointed Mike in the direction of the teeter totter. Which just tickled me to no end. Mike Paul now lives in College Park, Maryland. So last Friday afternoon, he flew from D.C. into Ann Arbor for Saturday's Michigan versus Ohio State matchup. Mike and I spent a good chunk of Friday evening tottering, then heated up some soup, sliced off some Zingerman's bread for a sandwich, hit the banjo a couple of licks ... and somewhere in the mix, a lost dog got reunited with her owner. For details, read Mike's Talk.

permanent link20 November 2007

(Grosse Pointe Quiz)


Question: Which event described below is so unbelievable that it can only be a scene from Grosse Pointe Blank, a 1997 film starring John Cusak?

  1. A choir director gives a former student's vehicle an unfriendly tap with her own car.
  2. A high school reunion attendee saves a classmate's life by gifting him a LeBlanc pen.
  3. A woman finds parking on Main Street in Ann Arbor by thinking positively about it.
  4. An art gallery named Washington Street Gallery is not located on Washington Street.

Bonus Pointes to Teeter Talk readers who can answer correctly without reading Lucy Ament's Talk. Even those readers who know without reading that the correct answer is B are encouraged to go ahead and click through to the Talk with Grosse Pointer, Lucy Ament--because the distractor choices make their way into the conversation on the totter as well.

permanent link16 November 2007

(Totteree Update: video edition)

Through 17 November 2007, there will be screenings of Peter Sparling's Allegorica at the Digital Media Commons every hour from noon until 7:00pm. Allegorica is a video work shot with four cameras, featuring nine improvisations danced by Peter Sparling, edited for display on five screens.


If you prefer to consume your video in a smaller format, and your taste runs more along comedic lines, Ann Arbor detective Khurum Sheikh is now policing the YouTube beat with a recent set from Joey's Comedy Club in Livonia.

If you don't watch at least to the part where he explains how to beat the breathalyzer test, then you're depriving yourself of a chance to extend your practical knowledge base.

permanent link 14 November 2007

(Please write for ArborWiki)

A couple of years ago some Community High School students undertook a project that eventually expanded its scope to become an online encyclopedia of Ann Arbor and neighboring communities: ArborWiki. ArborWiki now includes around 1500 articles, written and edited either by its registered users or even by anonymous contributors.

That's possible, because this compendium of information about Ann Arbor is set up on a software platform that allows anyone to make a contribution. In fact, the success of the project depends on contributions from folks in the community, like you and me, who know something and are willing to write it up for ArborWiki. Is there any reason to think that people will contribute new articles to ArborWiki? Ed Vielmetti has faith that they will. Back when Ed rode the totter, he commented:

... on my blog, whenever I need to link to something that's in Ann Arbor, and I'm being really lazy about it, I always link to ArborWiki. Because it's easy to type in the URL, I don't have to think, I can just hyperlink to the name of something, and that page will either be there or it won't be there, but someone will create it if they find it.

Otherwise put, Ed creates links to articles he figures ought to exist in ArborWiki, whether or not he knows for sure they exist. What makes him so optimistic that those non-existent articles he links to will eventually get written? Part of the answer is that the folks who administer the website for ArborWiki monitor for occasions when someone follows one of these links to non-existent articles and then add the title to a list of requested articles.

Last time I checked, the list of requested articles numbered over 2700. That's pretty daunting. So I'm not going to exhort Teeter Talk readers to tackle that list. I mean if you want to start at the top and just plow through it, knock yourself out. But I'd suggest something a little more focussed and a little less ambitious: people who are worth an ArborWiki article.

There's a couple of reasons why I'd like to focus on people. First, the category people on ArborWiki is currently populated by fewer than 100 articles, and I figure there's thousands of people in our community who are ArborWiki-worthy. Second, I imagine an encyclopedia entry about a person is a fairly straightforward exercise for someone who already knows a lot about that person. And the exercise is all the more straightforward if the effort is considered a draft and not the definitive, permanent entry in ArborWiki. Because a draft is what it will be, no matter how the author considers it--a draft that others can add to, re-organize, subtract from, and otherwise redact.

Contributing an article about a person to Arborwiki is as easy as counting to 10:

  1. Decide who to write about.
  2. Compose some information-laden paragraphs in your favorite word processor. Don't worry about layout, underlining, links, or anything else. Just worry about the words.
  3. Select all of the text you wrote and copy it.
  4. Go to ArborWiki and look for the big green plus sign towards the bottom of the page.
  5. Type the [Person Name] into the box.
  6. Click the Create-New-Article button. You'll be presented with a big text box with the title "Editing [Person Name]".
  7. Paste into the big text box the text you copied in Step 3.
  8. Click the Save-Page button.
  9. Send an email to all your friends with a link to the page you just created, telling them to get on the stick and make their own contribution to ArborWiki.
  10. Give yourself a pat on the back.

If you're having trouble with Step 1, then I'll suggest writing about Ed Amonsen. Click on Ed's name, and you'll save Steps 4-6 above. Why Ed? It's not because the first-name sorted list of ArborWiki's People category will put him right next to Vielmetti. It's because if a write-in candidate for City Council can come within 70 votes (or 4%) of winning a seat--as Amonson did in the 6 November 2007 elections--then there probably should have been an ArborWiki article about him even before he ran.

permanent link 7 November 2007

(An intentional pumpkin)

Back in late August when I started training in earnest for the Big House Big Heart 5K Run, I added timed intervals at the University of Michigan outdoor track to my weekly regimen. 53 pound pumpkin signI tried to inject a little variety into the warm-up run over to Ferry Field by wending my way through the guts of the 5th Ward along a different set of neighborhood streets every week.

One week, I noticed a large pumpkin growing out in front of a house in the unpaved area between the sidewalk and the street--called the 'verge' by some folks and the 'lawn extension' by others.

Clearly it was not an accidental pumpkin that just happened to be growing there as a result of a stray seed that had fallen there serendipitously the year before. It was not a grotesquely large pumpkin, i.e., not a record-setter, but still a pumpkin to be proud of. I know that I myself would be proud to be the grower of such a pumpkin.

Resolving to send along an invite to the pumpkin grower to ride the totter, I made a mental note of the address, and began making a point of including that street in my weekly warm-up over to the U of M track. To be carved pumpkins perfectly honest, I was just curious to see how long such a glorious pumpkin would last, before getting smashed.

But with two months left until Halloween, I did not have a sense of urgency about issuing the invitation, or about taking a photograph of the pumpkin, which I figured would be a nice way to help set the context for the pumpkin grower's ride.

By the time I managed to have a camera in hand to take a pumpkin portrait, it was on an evening stroll with my wife, who I had convinced to detour from our usual course with the promise of a pumpkin sighting. Just like Cinderella, I had waited too long; but unlike the ash-covered maid, my carriage didn't vanish to be replaced by a pumpkin--my pumpkin had simply disappeared. As we approached, I could already see that the pumpkin was no longer sitting in its patch, but there was something ... a message from the pumpkin grower!

The simple message written on a paper bag and mounted on a stick, 'Pumpkin weighed 53 pounds' assuaged my fears that someone had stolen it, or smashed it. As we were photographing the sign, Frank Anderson, the pumpkin grower, emerged from the house, and we struck up a conversation. His son, Eric, came out and showed us their hedgehog. And, long story short, cotton plant there was a followup invitation, which was accepted last Sunday.

Pumpkins weren't the only things growing on the Andersons' lawn extension. For readers who don't recognize this plant here, find out what it is ... by reading the Andersons' Talk. And creating connections by growing things on his lawn extension is not the only thing that Frank Anderson contributes to the community, either. For some background on his projects in Haiti and Ghana in connection with his research on maternal mortality ... read the Talk. And finally, there's an added bonus embedded in the Talk for all totterees past and future: their teeter totter ride with me means they have a maximum of 4 degrees of separation from Elvis, yes, that Elvis ... last name Presley ... lived at Graceland ... sang that Halloween song, ... "Punka, Punkin burnin Love" ...

permanent link 4 November 2007

(Slideluck Potshow Ann Arbor)

This past Thursday, 1 November 2007, I walked down to the Michigan Theater for an event called Slideluck Potshow, which Emma Nolan-Abrahamian had given me a heads up on. She'd been putting in a great deal of effort on the event, plus there seemed to be some indication of food.

The first face I recognized belonged to Executive Director of the Michigan Theater, Russ Collins, who despite my haranguing conceded that his totter ride had changed his life only "a little bit". He regretted he couldn't stay slideluck potshow for the Slideluck Potshow, because he was headed to a Planning Commission meeting to weigh in on the merits of the hotel project that's replacing what was originally approved by City Council under the name Metro 202.

Russ sounded like he was generally supportive of more downtown hotel space, but if you want to know what he actually said, then watch the CTN replay. And after you watch that replay, ask yourself what wrong turn you took in your life that led you to watch replays of Ann Arbor Planning Commission meetings on local cable access TV. Seriously, if you really cared, you'd attend the meetings in person. Like Russ did.

The next person I recognized was doing a microphone check, so I didn't interupt him--U of M's Dean of the School of Architecture, Doug Kelbaugh. And as I wondered what he was doing there, and even more, how he was involved in the organization, I remembered that Emma is Doug Kelbaugh's niece. And I quickly learned that the founder of the global phenomenon of Slideluck Potshow, is Doug Kelbaugh's son, Casey. So those connections all fit together nicely.

I gather that the Ann Arbor edition of Slideluck Potshow departed from the original concept in that food was provided, as opposed to relying on participants to bring a dish to share. It was quite a spread that Jerusalem Garden supplied. It's not a place I ordinarily think to go to eat. But now I think I will make a point to keep the Garden in mind, particularly for the wrapped chicken sandwich-type item with pickles and other assorted vegetables--a kind of middle-eastern burrito--because that was plenty tasty.

The screen for the slideshow was hung in the open area between the twin staircases that lead to the balcony, so it was visible from the top railing, the stairs themselves, and the open area just outside the main theater doors. Why not the theater itself? I think the answer is that the chosen arrangement seemed at least to evoke the friends-in-a-backyard, images-projected-onto-a-bedsheet origins of Slideluck Potluck. And that was probably the right call. The pieces themselves--all series of still images--ranged from playful monkey portraits to horrific scenes from the Iraq war. Due to the acoustics, those that depended on understanding spoken word from the the audio for a sense of narrative were not as successful as those that traded purely on the spectacular quality of the images.

In Casey Kelbaugh's opening comments he suggested that this event was not conceived as a one-off presentation and that he hoped there would be future Ann Arbor editions of Slideluck Potshow. I think I'd go, even if at the next one I had to actually bring a dish to pass.

permanent link 3 November 2007

(Counting the Coalition)

As of this posting, the number of teeter totter rides documented on this site stands at 119. Where does that number come from? What I do is inspired by Georg Cantor. I go out to our gravel driveway with a boot--it doesn't have to be a boot ... I could use a bucket, but I prefer a boot--and for each totter ride I pitch one rock into the boot. Then I determine the cardinality of the set of rocks in the boot. That is, I count 'em. Small rocks count the same as big ones. Size doesn't matter. It's the 1-1 mapping that matters.

So how do I determine whether to pitch a rock into the boot? Clearly it does not depend purely on the number of people on the teeter totter, but rather on some intuitive notion that a professional semanticist might call an 'event of teeter totter riding'. The Boyds, Arrah and the Ferns, and Brooklyn Revue, are all examples of multiple people on the totter, but in each of those instances a single rock was placed in the boot. So what about Josh and Nyima Funk whose photograph indicates they rode the totter at the same time? Appeal to this same intuitive notion, grounded in a theory of event-based semantics, would seem to point towards pitching a single rock into the boot corresponding to the Funks' ride.

Ultimately, though, it is not event-based semantics that decides whether a rock gets thrown into the boot. It's me. I am the decider. And I'll throw a rock into the boot as I see fit. The Funks count as two.

That was perhaps a long way to go for a play on words that will only baffle many readers instead of amusing them. But it's no farther than the distance from Iceland to Iraq. The video, which stars Josh Funk and Andy Cobb, highlights the count of coalition forces cited by the Bush administration, which includes Iceland--a contributor of one troop ... a member of the press corps. And it does it in a musical way that will entertain you.

Bonus points to any reader who can say without looking at the Funks' ride, er, I mean, ridezzz, what special 'connection' I have to Andy Cobb.

permanent link 2 November 2007

(Bicycle polo)

Late-breaking update to this post: Bike Polo, Sunday, 4 November, 3pm at Elbel Field. Mallets provided.

Parks are near and dear to Ann Arborites' hearts. But from where I sit, what's near and dear to their hearts is mostly having them, not necessarily doing anything in them. For example, I've been over to Allmendinger Park a half-dozen times now to fly the totter-shaped boomerang that Patrick Cardiff made for me, and on each occasion, I've had the entire park to myself to fly the boomerang.

So when someone undertakes to infuse a park with some human hustle and bustle, it's worth mentioning. And cheering for. Here's some photos of this fall's third Bicycle Polo match, which took place at Wheeler Park on Sunday, 28 October at 3pm. Teeter Talk readers will recognize Jimmy Raggett in the first two photos, but perhaps not Matt Churches, who organizes these bicycle polo matches and provides mallets.

bicycle polo
Jimmy Raggett

bicycle polo
Jimmy Raggett

bicycle polo
Matt Churches

permanent link 1 November 2007

(Beyond)

In the last posting, which introduced Burrill Strong, I briefly discussed how well Teeter Talk lived up to its slogan: "... tottering with folks from Ann Arbor ... Detroit ... and beyond." Not living in Ann Arbor, Burrill certainly contributed to the regional diversity of tottering guests. Specifically, I figure that Burrill's Chelsea perspective slots him into the slogan right on the ellipsis between 'Ann Arbor' and 'Detroit'. And folks like Alicia Wise, and Andy Bichlbaum, hailing from London and Paris, respectively, slot right into the word 'beyond'.

But what about beyond 'beyond'? As it turns out, that's a category that is now represented on the totter in the form of an entity called Aaron, who accompanied Barbara Brodsky on her ride last week. Which is not to suggest that there's a grid of categories I'm trying to cover with a selection of tottering guests, or that there is an elaborate set of qualifications totterees must meet. The sole criterion for Teeter Talk guests remains: a willingness to mount the teeter totter with me.

Readers with Burrill's Talk still fresh in their minds might remember that I asked Burrill (who is a photographer) for some pointers on shooting the standard tottering portraits. I was hoping to get some insight into ways I might put people in a frame of mind to do something more adventuresome than just sitting there on the other end, portrait style. Not everyone is like Nancy Shore (mouseover her photo). Which is actually fine, because one important quality of the totter portraits is a certain 'sameness'. So I'm not sure I'd want to change that up too awfully much. In any case, it's not like Burrill gave me a magic photographer's phrase to use. And if even if he did, I did not use it to inspire Barbara to strike this pose:

relaxing on a teeter totter

So in Barbara's Talk, when she talks about 'just relaxing', she's not kidding.

For this Talk there were three people (counting me) hanging around a teeter totter who enjoy word play, and some of the conversational topics involved planes of existence, balance in life, etc. So here's a caveat: if you don't enjoy word play, just try to ignore those parts. I'm not apologizing for it. I'm just sayin.

permanent link 25 October 2007

(Chelsea, Michigan)

From time to time, I reflect on the slogan, "... tottering with folks from Ann Arbor ... Detroit ... and beyond." It's probably a fair point that this slogan suggests a bit more geographic diversity than actually exists among the collection of totterees to date. There are some glorious exceptions--like Brooklyn, London, and Paris--but generally, folks who ride the totter are from right here in Ann Arbor.

One idea that occurs to me, now that I have an easy way to transport this kind of awkward load, would be to construct a portable teeter totter to facilitate rides by folks who live in Ypsilanti, Chelsea, Dexter, Saline, Livonia, or Lansing. Such a Traveling Totter might help regionalize the collection of totter riders. However, the construction of a portable totter isn't a project I've currently allotted time or budget for.

So in the meantime, I'll continue to rely on the willingness of people like Burrill Strong, to drive into Ann Arbor from places like Chelsea. If you know of Burrill, the first word you might associate with him is photographer. And with good reason, because what he does is take pictures. His work ranges from portraiture to photos of high school sports that have earned recognition with awards from the Michigan Press Association.

As compelling as Burrill's photos are by themselves, the combination of his writing and his photographs make for a definitive chronicle of the Chelsea High School Bulldogs' 2007 undefeated season. Burrill and I talked a bit about football plus ... parking in Ann Arbor, the problem with newspaper websites, how to get interesting shots, the future of traditionally print-based media in the age of the internet, and what's wrong with Pioneer High School. Read the details in Burrill's Talk.

permanent link 22 October 2007

(Books, trailers, sidewalks, and ankles)

Long story short: I injured my ankle last Friday trying to negotiate a broken slab of sidewalk concrete while running back from Bird Hills Park. Yes, I know it's a sidewalk and not a siderun, but for heaven's sake, if the City has painted one of those circles on your sidewalk slab, it means you're supposed to repair it. Now, when I exhort Ann Arbor homeowners to repair their sidewalks, I do so without suggesting in any way that the sidewalk caused my injury.

My research on the internet about this injury indicates that while it's probably not broken, it's definitely busted real good. Still, there's no need to put myself on the tottering Injured Reserve. Because I have the heart of a champion, I fully expect to complete today's scheduled totter ride. That expectation is based on strict adherence to all the advice I can find online to help with the rehab, except for this prescription from Jonathan Cluett, M.D:

"Elevate at night by placing books under the foot of your mattresses--just stand up slowly in the morning."

Books? Seriously, books?! When you need some mattress-foot-propping fodder the first thing you think of is books? Get a clue, Dr. Cluett. If you want an object common to nearly all households in large quantities, that's books or pop tarts for propping non-deformable and that can be incrementally stacked to exactly the required height, the obvious choice is ... pop tarts. Strawberry frosted (for extra strength) pop tarts. They have the added bonus that after you 'stand up slowly in the morning', your breakfast is right there at the foot of the bed. Readers are invited to use this photo illustration to compare and contrast for themselves.

Plus, if you've got books in your house that you hold in such low esteem that you'd use them to raise your mattress to rehabilitate a bum ankle, then perhaps you should think about exchanging those books for cash.


If you've noticed that the books around your house are mostly propping stuff up, or if they're weighing you down and you're facing a household move,

plot of book destinations

Books by Chance shipment destinations
17 October 2007

then maybe it's time to follow the example of totteree, Lou Rosenfeld, who unburdened himself of many of his books before moving from Ann Arbor to Brooklyn through Books by Chance.

Books by Chance isn't just a way to get rid of your books. It's a way to exchange your books for the maximum cash value as determined by the current world market for that title. How is that possible? Short answer: the magic of the internet and databases. As the map plot of book destinations shows, the book buying market served by Books by Chance is, in fact, world wide. From the map, it's evident that Ireland was one shipping destination last week. What's not evident from the map is that the title shipped to Ireland was an Incredible Hulk video. That's an inside bit of information that Books by Chance's John Weise revealed during his totter ride.

Ann Arbor's Books by Chance is run by John Weise and Stephanie Bentley, a couple who live a two-minute bicycle ride away from me. A Hawaiian outpost of Books by Chance is maintained by Stephanie's sister, Amy. What you'll discover when you read John Weise's Talk is that John's not actually a 'book guy' as one might assume from his connection to Books by Chance and his job as with the University of Michigan library. john weise in bicycle trailer

What kind of guy is he? Well, for one thing, he's the kind of guy who will go for a ride in your new bicycle cargo trailer.

I'm not kidding. Before John and I tottered last Wednesday, I hitched up my new Bikes at Work cargo trailer, cycled over to John's house, loaded John and a bunch of Books by Chance books onto the trailer, and headed down the commodious bike lanes of West Liberty Street to the Stadium Blvd. corridor. At Stadium, we turned left and headed for the United States Post Office loading dock.

The Books by Chance shipping report for that load of books indicated a shipping weight of 94.25 pounds. Not all of them fit into the two blue tubs I had brought, but conservatively, I'd estimate that we had 70 pounds of books along. Adding in John's weight, I figure conservatively the trailer was loaded down with 225 pounds, which is well under the 300-pound rating assigned to this trailer by Bikes at Work. heading down west liberty

While these photos reflect that John and I exercised appropriate attention to safety while undertaking this trailer ride, it's still probably worth pointing out that Bikes at Work does not suggest that its trailers be used to haul human cargo.

More photos documenting this trailer ride appear together with John's Talk.

The trailer point-of-view shots were captured by John with his iPhone. To my untrained eye, the iPhone delivers image quality that equals or surpasses the basic Nikon digital camera I use to shoot the standard totter portraits. Is there anything Apple can't do? Until I see an iTotter, my answer to that question is, Yes.


permanent link 17 October 2007

(Twitter vindicated)

Prepping for my ride with Will Stewart I skimmed through some of the material on a blog that Will helps edit called Michigan is Amazing. I remember reading an article there about a man up in Flint, Michigan who was building his own version of Stonehenge. At the time I thought, He's got his Stonehenge, I've got my teeter totter. To each his own.

But like a merry-go-round, if not like a teeter totter, what goes around once stonehenge teeter totter will come around again. And so it did over the weekend. Someone I follow on a Twitter, @jweise, twondered if I was aware that Stonehenge had been built with a teeter totter, and he pointed towards a Tweet from @mitten linking to a video about the Flint, Michigan, Stonehenge.

I thought, Oh, this again. It was only due to @jweise's Tweet that I even bothered to launch the video, which turned out to document ingenious techniques of engineering that allow Wally Wallington to singlehandedly raise a 22,000 pound obelisk and stand it on end. And I'm not kidding around here as I usually am. Go ahead, click through that link and verify for yourself that this is not like a fake news report about fashion models bathing in Bi-Bim-Bop-filled rain barrels (although I don't see why that could not eventually happen, because the last time I checked this is still America).

As I watched the sequence illustrated here with a two-frame animation, I felt that it certainly seemed fair to characterize the technique as a 'teeter totter'. So @jweise is not the only one. But if you watch all the way to time code 2:10, you'll hear Wally himself say:

... the easiest way I can explain this is that this is just a big teeter totter and I got the big kid on that end, and he's going to go down and this end's going up ...

Ladies and gentlemen, that is worth the price of admission to Twitter right there. Wow.

Readers who recall Ed Vielmetti's Talk, might be thinking, Hey wait a minute, Mr. Homeless Freakin' Dave, when it came to Twitter, didn't you say something like:

... but I can't really imagine that I'm going to be plowing a whole lot of time into it after this.

Okay, that proved to be less than accurate. I've accumulated 12 'followers' so far. And I'll certainly keep following the folks I'm following if it means that I'm going to be led to discover material as compelling as Wally Wallington's teeter tottering Stonehenge.

permanent link 13 October 2007 (ArbCamp)
If you've never heard of BarCamp or the discussion over whether ArbCamp is a BarCamp, just loosely based on BarCamp, or not at all like BarCamp, then read no further. You will not care, nor will you want to care about it.

However, if you're familiar with the Camp controversy, then you may have also seen the following item come across the newswire. All I have to say is, I was misquoted. And that makes me think that Craig Hupy, Derek Mehraban, and Ed Vielmetti were misquoted as well.

Ann Arbor, Michigan
12 October 2007
From AP staff reports

The City of Ann Arbor's storm water management team has launched a new initiative called Rain Barrel Bath Buddies with the goal of promoting community conversations about managing storm water. Said Craig Hupy, head of the City's Systems Management Group, "The idea is loosely based on Teeter Talk, that website where a dude invites people over to ride the teeter totter in his backyard. What we're doing is Teeter Talk, but in a rain barrel. You know, like you take a bath with your Barrel Buddy, we take a picture, and put a transcript up on the web."

Because of the comparison to Teeter Talk, the Rain Barrel Bath Buddies project has already stirred up a great deal of controversy. Homeless Dave, who founded Teeter Talk, claims that Rain Barrel Bath Buddies is not at all like Teeter Talk. "Loosely based on?! How about, Not at all like?!" complained Dave. "This Barrel Buddies thing shares none of the values of Teeter Talk and I wish they would just stop saying it's Teeter Talk in a rain barrel. If there's no totter, it's not Teeter Talk. They should just stop saying it. Stoppit, stoppit, stoppit."

Asked what it would take for Rain Barrel Bath Buddies to satisfy him, Dave replied, "Just stoppit, is all. Teeter Talk is for and by teeter totter riders. And if there's people taking baths in rain barrels, well that's not teeter tottering, now is it?"

Even though the repeated B's in the name of Rain Barrel Bath Buddies call to mind the repeated T's of Teeter Talk, it is not Dave who is taking issue with the name. The name is hotly disputed by a weekly lunch group, A2B3, because of similarities in its abbreviated form. Said Hupy, "Yeah, we were going to name it Ann Arbor Bath Barrel Buddies, or A2B3, but we switched it to Rain Barrel Bath Buddies or RB3." The slight name change came due to pressure from the A2B3 (Ann Arbor Bi Bim Bop) lunch group.

Said Edward Vielmetti, organizer of A2B3, "I'm glad they at least changed it so that it's not identical. But it still says B3. That calls to mind A2B3, even though their project has nothing to do with Bi Bim Bop and shares none of Bi Bim Bop's values, like cukes, for example." Vielmetti said that it would be okay to use the B3 abbreviation, only if the barrels were filled with Bi Bim Bop. However, Hupy claims that filling a barrel with Bi Bim Bop for every bath would be cost prohibitive.

In order to help cover the costs involved with filling barrels with Bi Bim Bop, Derek Mehraban, CEO of Ingenex, has begun negotiations with the TV program, America's Next Top Model, to bring the show to Ann Arbor for a photo shoot where the prospective top models would bathe in barrels filled with Bi Bim Bop. Asked how the negotiations were going, Mehraban said, "Hell yeah, a Dip in a rain barrel is a Dip that's worth working through. If we were in Florida, where I used to live, we'd put some alligators in the barrels to add an element of danger, but I'm working with what I've got."

Asked for comment on Mehraban's use of the word 'dip', Seth Godin, author of the book The Dip, said, "You know, I like Derek, he's a smart guy, but what he's talking about is not a Dip, and I wish he'd stop saying that working on the rain barrel Bi Bim Bop project is like working through a Dip. My Dip is meant to be figurative. If it's not figurative, then it doesn't share the values of a Dip."

Rain Barrel Bath Buddies is scheduled to launch on 27 October 2007.

permanent link 11 October 2007 (Tottering the Diag)
I was glad for the rain that finally started late yesterday, because it meant that I awoke to a rain barrel that was 80 percent full. I was sad for the members of Lamda Chi Alpha who had committed themselves to teeter tottering on the University of Michigan Diag through the night and on into the next evening. It's an effort connected to their North American Food Drive.

night time tottering on the diag
11:43pm 10 October UM Diag

permanent link 10 October 2007 (Art)
Last Friday I was down at the Washington Street Gallery for the opening of a show by Alvey Jones, who is a friend of mine and a partner at the the Gallery. There I ran into two totterees, Alan Pagliere and Jimmy Raggett.

Jimmy is memorable because he preceded his regulation totter ride by mounting the totter with his neon-wheeled fixed gear bike. He was accompanied at the Washington Street Gallery by his wife, Libby, who reported that she had a piece selected the All Media Show opening at the the Ann Arbor Art Center. They were making an evening of attending art openings. So after leaving WSG, I headed down the Art Center to check out Libby's work.

My Friday night thus paralleled Mandy Kay's, whose nice write-up plus photos of that evening on the Ann Arbor art scene appears on The Brouhaha Ann Arbor, which provides original commentary and images from Ann Arbor's cultural world.

Seeing Jimmy reminded me that a couple of weeks ago he'd sent around an email announcing the return of a Halloween-themed alleycat race. And judging from the search query logs for Teeter Talk since then, it's worth laying the details:

What: Ann Arbor Alleycat: Night of the Living Tread 2
Where: Wheeler Park
When: 30 October 2007 6:00pm Registration
Contact: email holdfast3000 using the domain gmail.com

And this just in:

What: Bike Polo (mallets provided)
Where: Wheeler Park
When: 14 October 2007 3pm
Contact: email holdfast3000 using the domain gmail.com

permanent link 8 October 2007 (Water. Rhymes with Totter.)
Keen-eyed readers of Teeter Talk might have noticed that the occasional container of bottled water in a totteree's hand has been replaced by a glass. Huron River Flow Rate I used to figure that people who were genuinely thirsty might nevertheless be unenthusiastic about accepting a glass of water from a stranger's faucet.

For a couple of months now, I've decided to tilt the other way on this issue and just let folks deal with their own balance between thirst and politeness. One gesture I do make--in order to class up the offer of a beverage--is to pour the tap water out of a silver pitcher.

As this handy plot indicates, there's plenty of water flowing through the Huron to supply us with our drinking water. Eight-five percent of it, in fact, according to Laura Rubin, Executive Director of the Huron River Watershed Council, who joined me last Wednesday on the teeter totter. It was rain barrel in action Laura who gave me the heads up about the online data for the Huron River's flow rate on the USGS website.

What that chart also indicates is a rain event around 1 October, which filled up my barrel, illustrated in this image. My thought of using this water to do some laundry in my hand-cranked washing machine foundered briefly on the initial murkiness of the water in the barrel.

One day after the rainfall, however, the sediment had settled out sufficiently so that a quarter was visible at the bottom of a five-gallon bucket dipped from the top of the barrel. I take the reflected canopy of the crabapple tree on the water's surface to be possible further evidence of the water's clarity, but I'm too unsure of the physics of light refraction to make a positive claim. In any case, I deemed the water in this bucket to be adequately clean to run through a laundry wash cycle. The rinse was bucket of laundry water accomplished with regular tap water.

In the course of Laura's Talk, she provided some validation for my practice of using laundry rinse water to irrigate my beans. During her Talk, we also discussed the possibility of future competitions pitting residents of different Ann Arbor creeksheds against each other. Count me in for that.

Laura's Talk also reveals that the Huron River Watershed Council has a claim to cultural hipness that I'm guessing Brandon Zwagerman, among others, would validate. And as far as rain barrel assembly goes, we seemed to agree that the safety screw fastening the lid in place could be ignored, because it takes a fair amount of effort to remove the lid, even when it's not fastened with a screw.

But on post-tottering reflection, it occurs to me that small children, raccoons, or just random dudes, might be pesky enough enough to remove the lid of an unsecured barrel lid and manage to make all manner of untoward mischief or even come to an untimely end.

To protect against possible liability for Teeter Talk, I would like to state here unequivocally that it's an excellent idea to fasten your rain barrel lid securely with a screw. And to reinforce that point, I have designed an inspirational poster. It is my hope that you will be inspired to download the slightly higher resolution version image it is linked to, print it out, and tape it to the wall where everyone at your place of work or in your household can see it ... and be properly motivated to keep their lids on tight.

Lids What are they good for?

permanent link 2 October 2007 (Favre-orites)
The assessment of my arborist/forester: tree-trimming time above the totter. His work was scheduled for Friday morning last week. In the same general time frame, I was hoping to squeeze in a teeter totter ride with an out-of-town guest. Long story short, all the trees were trimmed and the totter ride was completed without any branches falling on anyone's head. A successful morning.

Ordinarily, I don't try to schedule things that tight, but David Wahlberg was Wisconsin State Journal front page paying a return visit to Ann Arbor from out of town, and I didn't want to miss the chance for a ride. David used to live in Ann Arbor, but now resides in Madison, Wisconsin, where he's a reporter with the Wisconsin State Journal. In fact, of all the reporters at the publication, David is apparently Brett Favre's favorite. [Mr. Favre is quarterback for the Green Bay Packers, a team in the National Football League.] Which is a little surprising, given that Wahlberg doesn't cover sports.

To find out what he does write about for the WSJ, where he got his dogs, some ways Madison is superior to Ann Arbor, the first thing he noticed that was different about Ann Arbor, plus way more, read David Wahlberg's Talk.


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