Thursday, December 19, 2013

ANOTHER McNamara? Yes!

At this time next year, Wayne County will have a new Executive-elect.

But what about Bob Ficano, you might ask? If he wins, he'll hardly be new.

This is true. Ficano is, theoretically, up for re-election next November. But his candidacy appears to be dead in the water.

Ficano can't raise money, number one. He hasn't been able to for quite some time. The foibles of his character and his political machine have caught up to him. People have been distancing themselves from Ficano---people who matter. The old 10-foot pole thing.

I would be very surprised if Ficano chooses to run in 2014. He ought to save himself the embarrassment, and the effort. Just fade away, head back to the private sector, work for a law firm and collect a $200,000 salary somewhere. It's too good for him, but there you go.

I spent one year working for the Wayne County Commission (2010), but that's all it took for me to be impressed enough with one man who I hope runs, and who I think will win if he does.

He's County Commissioner Kevin McNamara (D-Belleville), and he'd make a good County Executive for lots more reasons than his name.

Mac's dad, of course, was the late Ed McNamara, another good man who I had the pleasure of getting to know. Ed was a fellow Livonia guy and I interviewed him on a local cable TV show I produced and hosted.

I know I just disparaged Ficano's political machine, and in the next breath I'm pushing for a McNamara, whose name is also synonymous to some with dirty, rotten political scoundrels.

First, I don't buy a lot of it---for what it's worth. Second, so what?

Has the Teamsters' James Hoffa been anything close to what his dad, Jimmy, was like?

Sometimes apples fall far enough from their trees to be given the benefit of the doubt.

Not that Kevin McNamara has anything to be ashamed of when it comes to his dad, who was WCE from 1987 to 2002. I know there are likely many individuals who would beg to differ with me, but this is politics and people are going to get hurt. Sometimes it's collateral damage for the greater good.

I have watched the younger McNamara from up close to, now, from afar, and I believe he has what it takes to commandeer the county and return it to good graces.

He has fought Ficano tooth and nail in the past, for starters. And that's never a bad thing.

I didn't know Kevin McNamara from a hole in the ground when I started at the Commission in February 2010 as its press secretary. When I left 11 months later, I was glad to have worked with him, and I was impressed when I saw him in action.

Interesting story. When K-Mac and I had our first pow-wow in his office shortly after I started---I arranged meetings with each Commissioner to try to get to know them a little bit---he told me that he had never heard of me and that was a little "disconcerting." His word.

That's funny, I wanted to say, but I had never heard of hardly any of you clowns either before now, but being new on the job, I just politely smiled---and simmered.

But after that rough start, I did some writing for Mac, including a letter to the editor that he wanted to send to the Detroit papers, thanking the road crews for their tireless work during a February snowstorm. It got printed, and I think that put me on good footing with him.

McNamara was heavily involved with county roads as Commissioner when I was working at the Guardian Building, and in that capacity his knowledge spidered out to involve other crucial aspects of county services. He's also been closely watching the Sheriff's Department for years, but not necessarily as an adversary. More of a supervisory ally.

One of the first things the new County Executive will have to do is restore confidence and integrity to the office. He (or she) will have to get people to stop thinking of the office as dirty and conniving. That's number one.

Then, it's on to reeling in a budget that has gone amok. That's another area in which McNamara has been mightily involved. I saw him up close during the 2010 budget process and I liked what I saw, in terms of a man trying to balance county needs with reality. He was neither a big spender nor a tightwad. He was somewhere in between.

The bottom line is, I believe Kevin McNamara to be a good man, and that's maybe as important as anything else.

McNamara has acknowledged that there are those wanting him to run. A poll that came out recently showed that he would fare very favorably, should he toss his Irish hat into the ring.

I hope he does.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Is That Still Good?

I have just one question today for all the packagers of our food stuffs. A very simple question.

Why is the expiration date a secret?

I used to have a college roommate---who, if he read this, will know who he is---who was deathly afraid of consuming food or drink that was even one day past its expiration date.

If that package of Rice-a-Roni had a date of June 17, 1984, and if it was June 18, 1984, my roommate wouldn't eat it. Period.

Loaves of bread that had days of the week on their twist ties, rather than actual dates, would drive him nuts.


He wouldn't fall for the smell test. Even if that gallon of milk smelled perfectly fine, but it was one day past the expiration, it would get tossed down the drain.


"They put those dates for a reason," he would tell me. "Don't they?"

I suppose, but still...

Anyhow, back to my original question.

Have you tried to locate expiration dates of food items? It's like an Easter egg hunt, only with text. You may as well be doing a word search.

Some dates are plainly visible, and for those, I thank the companies who do it that way.

But many others are placed on strange places like the sides of jar lids or hidden among the coded symbols and serial numbers on the bottoms, sides, etc of packages.

Not everyone uses the same dating system, either.

I would like a straightforward date like this: EXP 7-13-13.

Plain, easy, ends all ambiguity.

But some dates are coded and hidden among other text and symbols and numerals. It's hard to tell where the expiration date begins and ends.


I would think that when a product has lost its flavor or its safety in terms of consuming it, is a pretty darned important factoid for the consumers to have.

Yet the expiration date is often very difficult to locate, and if you do find it, good luck actually reading it.

The situation arose yet again the other night, when my daughter asked about the expiration date of a jar of capers that we had in our fridge for quite some time.

"I don't know, let me check," I said, and I took hold of the small jar.

I rotated that jar in my hands several times. I squinted at the side of the lid. I turned it upside down. My eyes bore into the label, as if I was trying to use x-ray vision.

No date.

"It doesn't have a date," I said, and even I didn't believe what I was saying. Surely a jar of capers should have a date of expiration.

My daughter joined me. She couldn't find a date either.

Now, had my old college roommate been involved, he'd have insisted that the jar be thrown out. As bad as using something past its date was to him, the discovery of a date-less item would have sent him screaming into the streets.

Sans a date on the capers jar with which to work, we did the (usually) trusty though sometimes frightening thing of opening the jar and smelling the contents. The capers smelled fine.

Although, a few minutes later, a thought came to me that I kept to myself (until now).

How do you know what bad capers smell like?

Friday, December 6, 2013

Father Knows Best

I am reminded of the words from time to time, spoken some 30 years ago by my father.

My father was a computer programmer, starting in the early-1960s, when the computers he was working on filled entire rooms.

While I was in college, taking an obligatory computer class to placate him, my dad told me something that still resonates with me today.

"Someday," he said, "people will do everything on home computers. They'll even do their shopping from home," my father told me, as if he was letting me in on a secret.

Damned if the old man wasn't right.

But I wonder if even he could have imagined just how right he would turn out to be.

My father passed away in 1996, just before the Internet really took off. Ironically, this great computer soothsayer never owned a PC of his own. He did, however, buy me a Commodore 64 in 1985.

Computer classes, back in 1982, were punch cards and boring program writing and amber text on a dark brown screen. Nothing close to what they have today.

So I, being a creative type who majored in communications, wasn't exactly turned on by computer programming. I have a feeling that my dad knew it would be a lesson in futility to get me involved in it as a vocation, but he gave it a shot.

Maybe I should have heeded his advice.

(Left: dad and me, circa 1990)

Actually---and my wife pointed this out to me a few years ago---our career paths did kind of meet in the middle.

I have taken my creativity and penchant for writing to the Internet---that world of home computing that my dad spoke about with so much clairvoyance in the early-1980s.

I often wonder how involved in the Internet my dad would have become, if at all.

Would he have owned a PC, browsed the Net with fervor and taken me to task on my blogs, or would he have gone into old curmudgeon mode and eschewed a computer entirely---which would have been the mother of all ironies.

It would be like a father predicting that some day man would travel on wheels via gas-powered engines, and then never owning a car.

But I will never forget his prediction about people shopping from home, via computer.

When he told me that, I had this vision of a computer, hooked up to one of those big, clunky modems, somehow connecting to a grocery store or something. After that, I wasn't sure how things were supposed to work.

I wonder what he'd think of Cyber Monday.

My dad, near the end of his career, wrote security systems for main frames. I can barely wrap my head around that. He worked mostly for General Motors, and then for EDS after GM bought them. After that transition, my father ended up working with a bunch of 30-something yuppies. Let's just say that it wasn't a good fit. You'd have to know my dad.

But he was on the button about shopping on the computer.

About all the other stuff people do digitally, who knows what he would have thought. Maybe it's best that he didn't stick around long enough to find out.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

RIP Bob Denver (Again)

Bob Denver is still dead.

The other day on Facebook, I came across a link "announcing" the death of Denver, who most famously played Gilligan on TV's "Gilligan's Island."

I'm usually pretty up on who's alive and who's dead, celebrity-wise, but in this instance I dropped the ball.

So I shared the link. The story, which appeared to sprout from "The Today Show" web site, announced Denver's age at death as being 70.

That should have been my first red flag.

A quick calculation told me that Denver must have been born in  1943, or in December of 1942, for him to have died at age 70.

After I shared the link, a Facebook friend commented that he was surprised Denver was that young.

"Yeah, me too," I commented back. "That meant he was in his early-20s when 'Gilligan's Island' first started on the air."

That by itself is semi-plausible, but I had neglected to take into account Denver's years playing Maynard Krebs in "The Dobie Gillis Show," which was on the air several years prior to Gilligan.

Being born in 1942 or '43 definitely did not jibe with that.

Denver: Still dead

It didn't take long for another FB friend to post a comment.

"That story is from 2005!"

I went to Denver's Wikipedia page. Sure enough, he died in 2005.

I was enraged, but I wasn't sure if it was more because I had been fooled, or that someone had posted the link in the first place.

I quickly deleted my status, embarrassed.

Then I went Googling.

I used the search string "Bob Denver dead Facebook" and I found a story from 2012 telling of how Denver death posts were making the rounds through Twitter, inexplicably.

So it had happened before, this re-confirmation of Denver's death (he was 70 in 2005).

I browbeat the Facebook friend who had shared the link to begin with. I told him to take it up with his FB friend who had posted it originally. I wanted justice.

So Bob Denver is still dead, I am sad to report.

Even sadder to report my gullibility. I let that one get away.