Wednesday, May 31, 2023


 I went down a rabbit hole yesterday that led to another rabbit hole, and another, and I wound up at Cadillac. 

Specifically, I found an answer for a cultural oddity that I observed growing up: the number of older black men driving Cadillacs, which was far out of proportion to the number driving other luxury models. It was particularly odd because Cadillacs weren't particularly reliable, even though they were expensive. 

This was a detail that buried itself in my mind for decades, unsolved. I found my answer yesterday, and it reminded me of my mom. 

Cadillac, as a brand, was dying in the early 1930s. The Depression made demand plummet for the brand by 84 percent, which was surely a death blow. 

A marketing executive, though, had another idea. 

Cadillac, as part of creating a prestige image for their brand, wouldn't sell Cadillacs to black people. Black customers had to use a white intermediary or buy their vehicles used. 

Here's a description of what happened next, thanks to a middle manager named Nicholas Dreystadt:
...Dreystadt said he had a plan to make Cadillac profitable in eighteen months, Depression or no Depression. The first part of his plan resulted from an observation he had made traveling around the country to the service departments of Cadillac dealerships. Cadillac was after the “prestige market,” and part of its strategy to capture that market was its refusal to sell to blacks. Despite this official discrimination, Dreystadt had noted that an astonishing number of customers at the service departments consisted of members of the nation’s tiny black elite: the boxers, singers, doctors, and lawyers who earned large incomes despite the flourishing Jim Crow atmosphere of the 1930s. Most status symbols were not available to these people. They couldn’t live in fancy neighborhoods or patronize fancy nightclubs. But getting around Cadillac’s policy of refusing to sell was easy: They just paid white men to front for them.

Dreystadt urged the executive committee to go after this market... The board bought his reasoning, and in 1934 Cadillac sales increased by 70 percent, and the division actually broke even.

So what I was seeing as I was growing up, in short, was loyalty to a company in response to how they treated a community by marketing to them when other brands wouldn't.

Like I said, this reminded me of my mom. 

When she was divorced in the early 1960s, every local merchant she dealt with revoked her credit. Incredibly so, but this was the 1960s, and divorced women were considered liabilities. 

One store, though, didn't do that. It was Wilson's Pharmacy, and they didn't take mom's credit away. 

As the years passed, and other pharmacies opened in our little town, Wilson's became more expensive than everyone else, not just with prescriptions, but everything else, too, because it had an eccentric selection of merchandise and gifts. 

I never understood why mom kept shopping there. One day, though, she told me the story, and I understood. 


Tuesday, May 30, 2023

The Wrapper Looks Great, Though

I don't eat Pop-Tarts anymore, because 5 grams of saturated fat aren't a great deal for the amount of food you get, even though I find the form factor and sugar content highly compelling. 

Walking through a Fresh Thyme grocery store today, though, I saw this:

Hmm. Anything with birthday cake flavor must be pure sugar, and as a bonus, it has 20g of protein, which sounds ridiculously unlikely but also enticing. Self-glossing itself as "Legendary" concerns me, as it seems like the dating profile equivalent of "sassy and classy" (hard pass), but what would it hurt to try one?

Here's the thing, though: if you consciously look like a Pop-Tart, the weight of history is upon you, and you must, in some way, resemble that flat, sugary delight. Even a passing resemblance is fine, but there must be a resemblance. 

Did I taste anything resembling a legacy? I did not. 

What did I taste? Despair.  

Monday, May 29, 2023


I've gone down the Chernobyl rabbit hole many, many times over the years. 

I thought I'd seen and read everything, but I was wrong. I was on HBO Max looking for something to watch and stumbled onto Chernobyl: The Lost Tapes, a documentary consisting almost entirely of video footage taken from Soviet archives. No matter what you've read or seen before, the footage is both shattering and haunting. 

In particular, the footage of the men who were responsible for removing 200 tons of radioactive fuel and debris is unforgettable. The degree to which they were unprotected was stunning, as they tied wafer-thin sheets of lead to their clothing. This was the protection they were offered.

What this footage does is make Chernobyl an incredibly personal event, both with the footage and interviews with survivors. It's an hour and forty minutes long, and not a single minute was wasted. 

Thursday, May 25, 2023

Friday Links!

Leading off this, a typical Ars Technica obscurity deep drive: Your fave illustration of Franklin’s kite experiment is likely riddled with errors

This is tremendously fun: Tradle is like Wordle but for economics.

Maybe someday it will get released, because the trailer is fantastic: The funniest movie you've never seen.

From Wally, and this is amazing: Orcas have sunk 3 boats in Europe and appear to be teaching others to do the same. But why? Also: Orcas have learned how to kill great white sharks, to remove and eat their livers.

From C. Lee, and it's a fascinating story: How Stuart Little Uncovered an Avant-garde Masterpiece Missing for almost a Century. This is both remarkable and concerning: Scientists Can Now Pull Human DNA From Air and Water, Raising Privacy Questions. An excellent read: The U.S. Lost a (Fictional) War With Iran 18 Years Ago. Aldous Huxley was an optimist: Debt Collectors Want To Use AI Chatbots To Hustle People For Money. This is sickening: Undercover audio of a Tyson employee reveals “free-range” chicken is meaningless. Not indie games, which are mostly the ones worth playing now: Game installs of 100GB or larger have now become the standard. This is alarming: Drug Shortages Near an All-Time High, Leading to Rationing. This looks like an important read: Rigged Capitalism and the Rise of Pluto-populism: On Martin Wolf’s “The Crisis of Democratic Capitalism”

An Unlikely Encounter

Eli 21.9 went to school with sisters who were identical twins from first grade to his first year of high school. They were the best athletes in their class and very likable, and he was friends with both of them. 

He's walking down the street today in a city in Cambodia (near Angkor Wat) — and suddenly, they're on the other side of the street. He sent me the most joyous picture of them together, a twin on each side.

It's the first time in he's seen them in five years, and he only had to go 8,000 miles away.  

FAFO, and good riddance

It seems like 18 years is a short sentence for seditious conspiracy with a terrorism enhancement, but that monster (I'm not even going to dignify him by using his name) is definitely in the FAFO phase of his life. 

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

A Tasty Snack


That's a tarantula. Fried, I think. Eli: It was honestly good. The body was too much for me but the legs were tasty. 

Also, they had a bonus travel partner today on the way to Angkor Wat. 

Bluesky Social

If anyone has an invitation they're not using and wouldn't mind passing it along to me, please let me know. I'd like to try it out, but I'm on the waiting list and it might be quite a while before I get in. I haven't been on Twitter for months now, and most of the people I used to follow have moved to Bluesky. Thanks. 

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

A ChatGPT Scenario

I hadn't thought about this until now.

For any writer whose works are no longer copyrighted —Jules Verne, Jane Austen, Tolstoy—it won't be long before books appear on Amazon with a subtitle of "A New Jules Verne novel by ChatGPT" or something similar.

The interesting element is I can see a time when someone edits a manuscript written by ChatGPT in the "voice" of a famous writer and creates an excellent read. There are art impersonators (well, forgers) who do masterful jobs of imitating painters, so why couldn't someone imitate a writer with equal care? Plus, it's totally legal in the scenario I outlined above.

The problem, of course, is that a great book isn't created in the writing, but in the editing. Doing this would require someone who was very, very skilled as an editor, and it would take hundreds if not thousands of hours. 

It's going to happen, though. 

Monday, May 22, 2023

In Contrast

Eli 21.9 has traveled from Vietnam to Cambodia, and he shared two interesting things with me. First, because Vietnam is Communist, everything in Vietnam is Vietnamese, and it's quite insular. All the restaurants are local. There are no chains, at least no non-Vietnamese ones. 

In contrast, within five minutes of entering Cambodia, he saw Burger King and McDonald's and other international franchises. There are also many more international residents of Cambodia than Vietnam, for obvious reasons, giving Cambodia more of a cosmopolitan feel. 

If you're wondering how the Vietnamese people treated a goofy American, though, he said everyone was incredibly nice. There were plenty of international tourists, too, just not permanent residents.

He mentioned one other thing. Checking Yelp or Google Maps for restaurant reviews, when these apps aren't widely used in Southeast Asia, means all the restaurant reviews are basically an aggregate of what American tourists think, which can be incredibly misleading. He said all their best meals were recommended by locals at places that didn't even show up on Google Maps.  

Thursday, May 18, 2023

Friday Links!

Leading off this week, from David Gloier, and the images are truly spectacular: Titanic: First ever full-sized scans reveal wreck as never seen before

This is fascinating: How Many Decimals of Pi Do We Really Need?

I never knew that sharks don't make sounds (this article disputes that): The Ocean’s Largest Shark Has a Little Something to Say

From Wally, and the lack of substance is remarkable: Cheesier, Saucier, and Drowning in Caviar: How TikTok took over the menu. It doesn't make sense unless you're doing it: Tim Dowling: my wife is gardening. I’m in my shed writing. It’s a risky situation. The looks from the runner are hilarious: Cameraman Runs Faster Than The Athletes Again! 

From Jonathon, and these are fantastic images: Great Vintage Photographs From the Early Days of the Skateboard

From C. Lee, and it's a terrific, thoughtful essay: Is Multiculturalism an Oxymoron? On Martin Puchner’s “Culture”. This is a long and utterly fantastic read: The Next Generation in Graphics, Part 2: Three Dimensions in Hardware. An excellent article: One Of Rome’s Most Devastating Military Defeats Was Masterminded From Within. I had no idea: Why the Centurion Is Such a Badass Tank. This is fascinating: Remembering the Golden Age of Airline Food. An interesting read: Crab Crisis: Is a Lost Sense of Smell Decimating Populations?  Me, too: Starfield's pillow talk will make me swear a vow of space-celibacy

A Sudden Change and More Vietnam

I've noticed over the years that acknowledging something, particularly publicly, often takes away the power it has over me. 

I had a long list of tasks to do today. Three, in particular, were the kinds of tasks that could stretch out for weeks as I avoided them. 

Today, though, I did all three. 

Just putting a problem in words helps it feel less substantial. In my case, it was a goofy problem, and the words helped highlight its goofiness. 

I'm sure I'll do it again, sometimes, but not so often, I hope, and not for so long. 

Meanwhile, in Vietnam...

Eli 21.9 is working his way toward Ho Chi Minh City (we remember it as Saigon). They'll leave Vietnam on Saturday or Sunday, and I think they're headed toward either Malaysia or Singapore next. 

He played nine-ball with an excellent pool player (who also owned the bar) and said it was fantastic. Those are my favorite moments on trips—not landscapes, or tourist attractions, but interactions with people. It really doesn't sound like me (at all), but it's true. 

Two more pictures. First, their Airbnb in Haiphong:

Everything is so incredibly green in Vietnam:

It's also hot, as hot as Vietnam has ever been this time of the year. 101F yesterday, with a heat index of 115F.

If you can't guess which part of the tree I am, you haven't been here for long


Wednesday, May 17, 2023

It's Good To Know

I went to the dentist today for a small filling. 

I find the dentist increasingly strange as I get older. It never used to bother me, but it does now. A filling is even stranger, with all the whirring and shrieking of the drill. 

Ever since I watched "Brazil," that drill sound gets to me. 

I was in the chair, mouth numb, and the dentist was drilling away, and of course there's that smell. I've never known exactly what it is, but it's foul, so I asked the dentist what it was. "Oh, that's just the smell of a burning tooth," he said cheerily, because every dentist is unrelentingly cheery. 

Well, except my first dentist. You never forget your first. 

We lived in a small town, population 7,302, and there was one dentist, just a small town, country guy. For all I know, he was an auto mechanic, but he was able to do exams and fillings with no problem. Back then, dentists weren't brands. They weren't cheery and they didn't have logos, just a sign with their name out front. No advertising, because everyone knew who the dentist was. 

I miss that, sometime. Marketing has become so pervasive and insincere that I find it exhausting. It's all noise and no signal. I know, that's an odd pivot to nowhere, but somehow it's all connected. 

[Update; here's the connection. Society used to be about providing service, but now it's about presenting an image.]

Tuesday, May 16, 2023


 Eli 21.9 sent me pictures from the Hanoi and Haiphong areas. Here's a picture from a sea kayaking trip:

Here's a privacy pod (I guess on a bus?):

Three pictures from near Haiphong, and I don't have any extra information yet, but the god rays are beautiful:

Monday, May 15, 2023

It's Odd

I have an odd reaction to certain things. I'm still trying to figure out why. 

An example: I needed to renew my passport. This is a reasonably simple process. Even with lengthy directions (longer than the form itself), it's no more than a two-hour commitment, at most, and that includes the trip to the post office. 

It took me nearly a month. 

Almost a month of putting the task on my daily Post-it-note (my life organizer for tasks), marking everything else off, and not getting it done, to then be transferred to tomorrow's Post-it-note.

What makes this so odd is that I get up in the morning, every day, and write 500 words on the next novel. I edited the first book every day, for years. When I found out I had a diet issue that was causing some arterial blockage, I stopped eating saturated fat and cholesterol overnight. 

Yet, for other, relatively trivial things, I find it almost impossible to get started. 

I find it difficult to be relentlessly efficient in large parts of my life but utterly ridiculous in others. 

This came up because I finally mailed off the passport renewal application this morning, after a month of delay. I've been thinking about it today, wondering why I am like I am. 

Like we all do.

Thursday, May 11, 2023

Friday Links!

Leading off this week, an incredible, bizarre story: THE BILLION-DOLLAR PONZI SCHEME THAT HOOKED WARREN BUFFETT AND THE U.S. TREASURY: How a small-town auto mechanic peddling a green-energy breakthrough pulled off a massive scam.

This is an excellent read: Qubits 30 meters apart used to confirm Einstein was wrong about quantum

Another terrific read: On the trail of the Dark Avenger: the most dangerous virus writer in the world.

From Wally, and it doesn't even seem that surprising: Recycling plastics might be making things worse. This is incredible: The History of TV in 22 Lots

From C. Lee, and it's dark and tragic: First as Tragedy, Then as Fascism. Oops! Link Between Long Telomeres and Long Life Is a Tall Tale, Study Finds. Part of a general trend, it seems: Ikea’s Answer to Inflation? Make Things Flimsier. This is a remarkable story: The Long Forgotten Love Story of the Titanic’s Interracial Couple. A great read: How Are These Trees Floating Over a Finnish Road? This is a remarkably clever commercial: Australian lamb ad

Cotton Candy, Spring, and Surfing

I've been waiting for the future, and I believe it's finally arrived:

After four false springs (about average), it's finally here, and this is the view outside the study:

Everything looks great in spring:

A bonus picture from San Diego, which Eli 21.9 will be leaving tonight, on his way to Vietnam:

Wednesday, May 10, 2023

Are They?

I took a protein shake to the counter to check out. A vanilla protein shake.

"Have you tried the strawberry?" the clerk asked. She reached behind her and pulled out a strawberry protein shake of the same brand. "It's amazing!"

"Thanks," I said. "I'll have to try that." I won't.

"We have strawberry and chocolate," she said, as she rang up my vanilla protein shake. "Those are the only flavors we sell."

Tuesday, May 09, 2023

Just an Entirely Normal Phone Call

When Eli 21.9 calls and asks for something, it's not a recipe or an oil change or anything mundane. 

"Dad, I need help getting the second dose of a Japanese encephalitis vaccine, and I have to do it today," he said when he called on Saturday morning. 

Nothing fazes me anymore.

"On it," I said. I hit Google and started calling every healthcare provider on the list who came up in the search results. On the third call, I found a sympathetic woman who pointed me to Walgreens. I was on the phone, waiting for the pharmacist, when I got this text:
I've got a lead. Walgreens. 

It was definitely a lead, after after walking the pharmacy employee through what happened, he had a vaccine in thirty minutes. The all-hands-on-deck alert was lifted.

If you're wondering, he got the first dose of the vaccine 28 days ago. At that time, the university health center scheduled his follow-up appointment, but forgot that after graduation, the clinic was closed on Saturdays. He showed up for his second dose, the clinic was closed, and alarm ensued, because he had to have that vaccine (with proof) to get into Vietnam.

When he told the story to the woman at Walgreen's, she responded with an obscenity (she's dealt with this before) and asked him for proof of his previous dose. He couldn't quite do that, but was able to show her his appointment four weeks earlier at the health center, which supported his story.

Close enough. Vaccine and certification given.

It's much easier to find a dose of Japanese encephalitis vaccine than yellow fever vaccine, by the way, which was January's crisis. 

A Political Post

I'll be brief.

It's the guns. It's always been the guns. It'll always be the guns. Other countries have people with mental health issues. Other countries have poverty. Other countries have everything we have, and they don't have mass shootings. What do we have that they don't have? 400 million guns. 

Are there other factors? Of course. Are they primary? Of course not. It's the guns. 

If you want this to change, vote for people who will do something. 

Monday, May 08, 2023

The Pest Guy

I met the real-life equivalent of Super Dave Osborne today.

Super Dave (lots and lots of videos on YouTube) had a comedy show and his shtick was that he was a daredevil like Evel Knievel, but his stunts always caused horrifically exaggerated injuries (which is actually closer to Knievel than it would seem, but that's a different story). 

The pest guy, while we were chatting (as one does), said he was on a ladder a few months ago when it failed and he'd fallen (a long way, for it was an extensible ladder). He broke his back in multiple places, broke a rib, and punctured a lung. 

The doctors said he was one of the luckiest people they'd ever seen. He didn't need surgery, and he recovered in six weeks (the first four in bed). 

He fell through a floor during a construction project a few weeks before that, and also broke his hand by somehow stapling drywall or something (missed the drywall, hit his hand) during another construction project a few days before that. 

Every time he told one of these stories, he'd accompany it with the happiest, gustiest laugh you'd ever heard. He was positively jovial. 

If I ever break anything, I'll call and he can cheer me up by telling me about the time he fell off a skyscraper and landed in a cement mixer. 

This Doesn't Feel Like The Future: How It's Going


Well, that looks fantastically washed out unless you click on it and expand to full size, but writing is being done every day, and I passed 10,000 words today. 

500 words a day. No drama. Full draft sometime in October. Let's hope it doesn't take seven years this time.

Saturday, May 06, 2023

Speech Links

I blarged up those speech links a bit, so if you had any trouble viewing, they're fixed in the original posts now. 

Thursday, May 04, 2023

Friday Links!

Leading off this, a fantastic read (and a series to watch): Secrets of the Elephants series reveals a unique, dynamic animal culture

I wrote a book, and you can see it here: The Man You Trust.

From jdv, and it's a terrific read: The great European house cat migration

This is incredibly useful: Fruit expert shows how to choose the tastiest fruit

Meg McReynolds alert! Scientists sequenced the genome of Balto, famous sled dog of 1925 “Serum Run”.

From C. Lee, and where we are, in particular, is sobering: Mapped: The State of Democracy Around the World. This is incredibly disheartening: Private equity finally delivered Sarah Palin's death panels. This is a fascinating read: Remembering That Time the U.S. Tried to Drill the World’s Deepest Hole. I was surprised: Why Vikings weren't who we thought they were. This doesn't seem surprising: Heavier Vehicles in Aging Parking Garages Are a Recipe for Disaster. An interesting little rabbit hole: How Did the Chess Pieces Get Their Names? Oops: Made Here: Watch How Pink Himalayan Salt Is Mined in Pakistan

From Wally, and this is a terrible trend (pay attention to the people who are doing this and vote against them, please): Banned in the USA: State Laws Supercharge Book Suppression in Schools. This is one tough policeman: 5.1.23 Traffic Crash Sully Police District.

From Daniel Q., and it's just too good: Giant phallus-shaped iceberg floating in Conception Bay surprises residents of Dildo, Canada

Graduation Week: Saturday

It wasn't raining. That was great. 

It was about a forty-minute walk to Michigan Stadium, and this is what the big graduation ceremony at the University of Michigan looks like:

If you're thinking that seems like a huge number of people for a graduation, you'd be right. About 60,000, in fact. It was fun, though. This felt like more of a celebration than the other ceremonies. Plus, I got to sit with his roommate's parents, who are incredibly nice (and, like everyone else that weekend, because I was Eli's Dad, I was immediately accepted by everyone). 

Wynton Marsalis gave the commencement address, which started off incredibly incisive and inspiring and wound up in a ditch. Eli 21.9 climbed up after the ceremony to find me, and the first thing he said was, "What'd you think about that speech?"

"It started off focused and brilliant, and then it devolved into an old man rambling about things he didn't understand. You can only have one theme in a commencement address, not five.

He started laughing. "That's word-for-word what I said to [his girlfriend]!"

That used to happen all the time, and it still does, which means a lot to me. 


That bottom picture is how we've always been and always will be, I hope. 

He wasn't done, though. Political Science graduation was later that day, and he received the William Jennings Bryan Award, which is ironic, because WJB was a complete tool and Eli would have mocked him mercilessly. 

Here's the video: JWB Award.

And with that, I've survived graduation week twice, although "survived" is not the right word. 

What made me the happiest was seeing how loved Eli was by everyone: his friends, other students, professors, parents. Everyone just lighted up when he was around. To have other people feel the same way you do about the son you love so much (I'm tearing up writing this) is incredibly special. 

It feels like a chapter of his life is ending, but as he always does, the next chapter has already begun. He's a master of overlap. He'll be at Oxford in October, and I can't wait to see what he does next. 

I'm lucky.

Wednesday, May 03, 2023

Graduation Week: Friday

A little housekeeping from yesterday first. This is the video of Eli 21.9 receiving the Marshall Sahlins award, and sorry that the first 30 seconds are basically video of his elbow:
Marshall Sahlins Award.

Friday the weather was absolutely trash, as it is seven months a year hear. I'd solved the shoe problem (even though my feet felt like they used to feel after running a marathon), but since we couldn't really drive anywhere, we basically walked through rain all day long with temperatures in the low 50s. 

We saw Eli's girlfriend present her thesis, which was wonderful. She's such a kind person, and she's ridiculously smart, too. Part of her presentation involved a standardized survey (a well-established one) to measure changes in hope, and it made me realize something I'd never understood before.

Hope is not an event, it's a process. 

This dovetails neatly with Eli's thesis and how abandoned people in Liberia felt after the U.N. (and the U.S.) stayed around for a while, made promises, and then left before any of them came to fruition. They abandoned the process, and so of course the Liberian people felt cheated. 

If you want to help someone, it can't just be an event. That might pay off in the short-term, but in the long-term, they'll be right back where they started. I've tried to help people in my life, but I never thought of it in these terms, and it's never been as helpful as I'd hoped. Maybe now I know why. 

Later in the afternoon there was Political Science Honors, where they again talked about the thesis topics, this time for Political Science in particular, and again I was just astonished at how ambitious and creative the students were. 

Walking back (now in just a light rain), we were laughing at how his life had changed in the last few months. All the things he'd been working for had somehow borne fruit. He said he liked being recognized for his work, but that it was incredibly embarrassing to have it done in public. He's definitely his father's son, in that regard.

I'm going to break the protocol of the last twenty years and show a few pictures of us together (I know, I've posted a few, but not many over the years). 

This was after Honors graduation:

Walking back to his apartment on Friday, we passed this, and it was beautiful:

We had dinner with eight people Friday night, which was great but tough for me, because my battery runs down pretty quickly in those situations. I made it through, though, then drove back half an hour in heavy rain. 

Tuesday, May 02, 2023

Graduation week: Thursday

The basic setup for graduation week was for me to drive down Wednesday night and stay in Livonia (half an hour from Ann Arbor), because the Holiday Inn in Ann Arbor was charging $400 a night last week, and the other hotels were worse. 

The schedule was packed: two events each on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, plus dinners with the families of Eli 21.9s girlfriend and roommate squeezed in as well. 

Oh, and I totally forgot to mention that he finished 3rd in the inaugural Collegiate National GeoGuessr Championships on the previous Saturday. I can't even keep up. 

It'd been so long since I dressed up for anything in "business casual" that was I wasn't even sure my pants would fit, but they did. And I had nicely ironed shirts, as I mentioned last week. I thought I was prepared.

What I didn't know was we were going to walk everywhere, and everything was 20-30 minutes away, because there are zero useful parking spaces in Ann Arbor during graduation week. The first day, I wore dress shoes and wound up walking for over two hours in them, which wrecked my feet. After that, and seeing how everyone else was dressed, I snuck by with "nice" running shoes.

What struck me about the Honors Commencement was how incredibly accomplished all the students were, to a degree I never expected from anyone that young. The kids I graduated with in the last century were absolutely nothing like these kids. 

This was where Eli was going to be one of the speakers, which meant he sat on stage. He would have much preferred to sit with his friends. 

He was the second speaker, and as soon as he started, you could have heard a pin drop. It was a great moment. Here's the video of his speech (it's about two and a half minutes long): Eli's speech.

His girlfriend was in also in Honors, so I got to see her after the ceremony and they took some great , happy pictures together (not sharing to protect her privacy, but they're a wonderful couple).

That night, we went to another ceremony, and I'm not even sure what it was called, but he won the Marshall Sahlins award, which goes to the student with the best honors thesis in the Sociology Department. 

I was even more amazed during this presentation, because they talked about the thesis subjects of the students, and they were astonishingly inventive and difficult. An example: a thesis on the Munich Massacre of 1972 (during the Olympic Games), which was a hugely formative moment in my life. This student went back and examined thousands of pages of newspaper articles from both Germany and Israel (in their native language) to add a new perspective. Oh, and she's Eli's friend, too, so she's sending him a copy to send to me. 

As I write this, I realized I'm still on fumes after last weekend, and I'm getting the facts, but I'm doing very poorly with describing how I felt, and all the funny things Eli and I said to each other. There were many. 

Monday, May 01, 2023

The Most Satisfying Championship is the One You Didn't Know You Were Playing For

It was quite a graduation weekend, and I hope to tell you all the stories over the next week or so. 

To tell you everything, though, I need to start two weeks ago, with a hockey story. 

Eli 21.9 played intramural hockey this spring with a bunch of great guys who were not great hockey players. This was totally okay, of course, and Eli really enjoyed playing with them. His save percentage for the season was over .970, and they won plenty of low-scoring, tight games. 

In the playoffs, they won both the quarters and semis 1-0. Average shots against: 38. In one-hour, run clock games. Eli said it was chaos, and also the best he'd ever felt in net.

In the league finals, they got outshot 40-5 and lost 3-2 in overtime. The overtime goal was brutal, a back-door pass and a quick shot before he could cover. 

Still, though, a very fun season.

It was time for him to replace some of his gear, and I jokingly said maybe his bag wouldn't reek like the dead (and not the recent dead, either), and he laughed and said he still had one more game. Apparently, there was a tournament for the winners of intramural hockey at Michigan, Michigan St., Illinois, and Indiana. The team that beat them passed on playing, so Eli's team was invited. "It's going to be ugly," he said, because they were getting outshot 5-1 against regular teams, let alone teams that won their leagues. 

Still, though, it was another chance to play hockey. He said it sounded super-casual, so he was looking forward to it. 

After the game on Saturday, he called. "Dad, I'm about to tell you the wildest hockey story ever," he said. 

He did, and this is what he told me. 

The game started at 4, so he pulled up to the rink at 3:40 (intramurals, right?), shouldered his bag, and started walking in when he saw a charter bus pull up. 

He waited, curious, and adults wearing green and white (Michigan St.'s colors) started streaming off the bus. Lots of them. 

"That's when I realized not everyone was playing it casual," he said. 

He walked in and saw the Michigan St. team on the ice. His team has ten skaters and himself (two lines). Michigan St. had twenty skaters and two goalies, a full four-line team, and he could quickly tell they were very, very good. Someone at the rink told him that since Indiana and Illinois didn't show up, this game was for the championship. 

"What championship?" he asked. 

Apparently, they were playing for the Midwestern Intramural Hockey Championship, with a sponsor (LUG) and championship rings and everything. And one team--not his team--was taking it very seriously.

He walked into the locker room at 3:45 and he was the only one there. At 3:50, a couple of guys trickle din. 

They go out for warm-ups and only have four skaters and himself. One more showed up right at puck drop, and that's how they started the game. 

In the first twenty seconds, Michigan St. got a 2-on-0 breakaway and scored. The crowd went wild. The Michigan St. players celebrated. 

Excessively, he thought. All right, then.

During the period, the rest of his team wound up coming in, so they have ten skaters. Eli stood on his head, and at the end of the first period, after being outshot 15-0, it was still 1-0. 

Eli said at this point he realized that if they could just kick something in, they had a chance, because he felt totally locked in. 

In the second period, about five minutes in, his team got their first shot. And scored. 1-1.

He said the crowd suddenly got very, very quiet. 

Five minutes later, they got a second shot, and a guy who hadn't scored all season sniped one into the corner and it was suddenly 2-1. 

Then, and Eli said this was the greatest thing, his team started playing hard. Not intramural hard, but genuinely hard, and even with only two lines, they played that way for the rest of the period. Outshot 25-8 in total, but ahead 2-1.

In the third period, Michigan St. was skating circles around them because Eli's team was exhausted from only having two lines. They were shooting everything at him, but couldn't score. 

With five minutes left, Eli's team took their first penalty of the game, giving Michigan St. a power play. They threw everything they had at him, and kept the puck in the zone for over a minute and a half. At the end of that sequence, Michigan St. set up a back-door pass, the exact pass that beat him a few days ago, but this time he got over and made the glove save. The shooter skated to the glass and smashed his stick so hard the shaft and the blade shattered. They had to stop the game to clear the debris away. 

Ten seconds later, his team finally cleared the puck, and the Michigan St. captain skated down the ice yelling "FU*K!" at the top of his lungs.

I don't think I need to mention that Eli was really, really enjoying this. There's nothing better for a goalie than infuriating an entire team. That's candy.

With fifteen seconds, left, a Michigan St. was behind the goal in Eli's end and their player flipped the puck over the goal. It hit Eli's back, then bounced to the ice and started tumbling toward the goal line. Eli managed to turn around and dive on it with his glove when it was still an inch away, and seemingly every Michigan St. player jabbed at it, but to no avail. 

Five seconds later, the game was over. Outshot 40-10. Final score: 2-1. 

I asked him how the Michigan St. players were in the handshake line, and he laughed and said "Pissed."

When I was down there last weekend, I got a picture of the ring:

Utterly, absolutely ridiculous, just like the game. And fun. Oh, and because they won, they qualified for the national intramural championship tournament. 

As discretion is the better part of valor, they declined.

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