Category Archives: Michigan

Appalachian State 34, Michigan 32

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This is the motto of today: Appalachian State is hot, hot, hot.
Today I walked into the Big House for the first football game of the season and told the people I was sitting with that I had decided to root for the opponent, a 1-AA team whose school I had only previously heard of because of an Internet viral video craze. My friends thought I was crazy, but I’m a sucker for the underdog and, unlike many in Ann Arbor, I definitely do not live and die by the Wolverines. Even so, when I made that statement, I never expected that I was going to be rooting for a winner.
Turns out, this was the first time a 1-AA team has beat a ranked D1 team ever.
I laughed a lot during the game at the tragedy of it all, and couldn’t help but feel a little glad for the Mountaineers as they stormed the field after the blocked field goal that ended the game (and almost resulted in another ASU touchdown). This is the sort of thing they make sports movies about… it’s just that I was sitting in the student section of the bigger, stronger, faster, and yet losing team. No one around me thought it was as amusing as I did.
I’ve never before seen a crowd leave a stadium in the shock that this one did. A freshman (I think) sitting near loudly declared that the remainder of his season tickets were for sale to anyone who would buy them. Another undergrad lamented that he should have sold his Ohio State ticket yesterday because now the going rate would surely plummet. Many, many people were heard on cell phones mourning with their loved ones about how “we” couldn’t ever get the 2-point conversion and how “we” couldn’t kick a field goal. Secretly, I was laughing then too, but I was a little afraid that someone would hurt me so I kept it to myself.

Song of the Bells

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There is a carillon tower a few blocks from my window that usually chimes on the hour and plays music at random other times. During the school year, it’s pretty standard stuff — mostly bell-ringing etudes that I don’t recognize. But just now, I heard the strains of “Stairway to Heaven” coming out of the bells. It took me a minute to figure out that that’s what it was, because I’ve never heard a carillon version of the song before, but it was definitely Zeppelin. They played the whole song too, from the slower first section right through the faster second section.
I know there’s a one credit course to learn how to play the carillon… maybe I should take it, now that I know that I can potentially play rock anthems over the campus.

Bill Clinton

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Last weekend, amongst the hustle and bustle of my parents being here and seeing three baseball games in three days, I also graduated. I am officially a Master of Science now… of course, that means very little to me right now since my prelim paper is due tomorrow and I really shouldn’t be wasting time writing this. But I wanted to post a link to the commencement address, given by former President Clinton. The speech exceeded even my high expectations, even as planes flew over the stadium with banners proclaiming anti-Hillary/anti-abortion rhetoric. (He didn’t mention Hillary once, for whatever that’s worth.) It was infinitely better than the speech given by the head of the NIH, who spoke at MIT in 2004. Plus, at Michigan they don’t call all the graduates by name and have them walk on stage — they have separate graduations by college for that, which I happily skipped. All in all, it was a nice way to spend a morning before heading off to Toledo for a ballgame.
So without further ado: the speech.
Edit: Bill Clinton just got a lot more awesome in my book.

The Gender Gap

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There’s an article in today’s Michigan Daily about the gender disparity in computer science — the most male-dominated undergraduate major at the university with an 8-to-1 ratio. (I think the numbers for the graduate program fare a little better, but my perception might be skewed because there are three women in my office, a complete abnormality for the building.) The article covers your standard stuff — one of the 21 women who do major in CS giving the typical, “At first things were intimidating but I got over it,” response that such women usually give and one of the men talking about how strange it is to come in contact with a female. (His exact quote is “Maybe we are afraid of them.”)
But then came the quote that made the article different from every other gender-in-the-sciences article I have read. When asked about the disparity, Randall Brown, a sophomore, responded:

“Computer science is mostly male because after guys are done looking at porn, we’re too lazy to leave the computer, so we find other stuff to do.”

I invite any male computer scientists to confirm or deny this statement by leaving a comment (anonymously if you’d like). And if men in other fields were drawn to their profession through porn… well, I really don’t want to know about it.

Michigan 34, Ball State 26

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Went to my second Michigan football game of the season today, thanks to a friend of mine who’s at a conference. With the number 2 team in the country (that would be us) facing a school that I hadn’t even heard of before today, I expected the game to be a big blowout. (Ball State is apparently in Indiana — I didn’t know this until well into the second quarter.)
But surprisingly enough, the game turned out to be somewhat close — a little too close for comfort for my friend who’s been at Michigan since his undergrad days. Ball State got the ball to the 3 yard line with two and a half minutes left — if they scored and managed to convert two, the game would have been tied. Upon this realization, my friend nearly started hyperventilating. At fourth down, Ball State decided to go for it and the student section stood and cheered and frantically waved our keys in the air (as we do for all “key” plays). The QB threw a harmless incomplete into the endzone as the stadium collectively breathed a sigh of relief and my friend sat down to collect his nerves. Michigan rode out the rest of the game for the win.
I actually took the ticket because of the guest marching band conductor — none other than Captain Picard himself, Patrick Stewart. During halftime, he led the band in a rousing rendition of the Star Trek theme and Hail to the Victors. One boisterous fan even did the Star Trek symbol instead of making the traditional fist during the “Hails.” Stewart also instructed us to “Boldly go [to Columbus, OH] and beat those Buckeyes — be number one!” at which point, the stadium went nuts with cries of “Captain Picard’s on our side!” and “Buck the fuckeyes!” Stewart is, of course, in town with the Royal Shakespeare Company and I’ll be seeing him as Prospero in The Tempest on Tuesday and Antony in Antony and Cleopatra on Thursday.

Michigan ?, Michigan State ?

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Today I finally developed some Michigan school spirit (sorry, Dad). One of my duties as a member of the Women’s Glee Club is to sing “Blues” at the tailgates before the home football games and ask for donations. Not to be confused with something Billie Holiday might sing, Blues are all of the Michigan school songs — Laudes Atque Carmina, Yellow and Blue, I Want To Go Back To Michigan, Varsity, and (of course) Hail To The Victors.
We started the day off with a brief radio gig on WOMC, the “flagship station for U of M football,” before splitting off into smaller groups and wandering around the tailgaters. People had RVs and tents, grills and coolers, lawn chairs and car bumpers. Some groups were grilling hotdogs, others, including a friend of mine whose father used to play football for Michigan, were a little more upscale with pulled pork sandwiches and large platters of appetizers and dessert. (In fact, I made it a point to end my group’s travels there so I could mooch off of them.) This was definitely an aspect of college life we didn’t have at MIT.
Because it was the Michigan State game, the crowd was particularly riled up for good natured rivalry. Lansing is only an hour away and many parties had a pretty even mixture of maize and blue and green and white. I saw one man who apparently couldn’t make up his mind who to cheer for — his sweatshirt was split down the middle with the left half green for the spartans and the right half blue for the wolverines. One woman grabbed us, brought us over to her friends, Michigan State fans, and gave us $10 to sing Hail to the Victors for them. Another man in a green sweatshirt offered us $40 to sing the Michigan State song, which I didn’t know, but two girls did and thus sold their voices to the green and white.
Victors was the most requested song by far, as it’s the one everyone knows and claps along to, but occassionally someone would surprise us with their knowledge of our repetoire. An alum of the Men’s Glee Club asked if we knew the “Go to College” song, which apparently was written back when he was a student in the 1970s. We didn’t, but he gave us money anyway for singing “Yellow and Blue.” By the end of the day, we had close to $200 in our bucket — and that was just my half of the group.
As for the football game itself… heck, I didn’t have tickets. I have no idea who’s winning. I came home to watch the Tigers-Yankees game instead.

Like The Bad Taste Line, But With Rain

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I just got back from camping out in front of the Power Center in order to secure myself student tickets for the Royal Shakespeare Company performances this November. (Sorry, lmesseri, these were for students only…) Tickets went on sale for the reduced price of $30 this morning at 9 AM. My original plan was to get up and get in line at 6:00 AM, figuring that would be early enough. So, I curled up to go to bed at 11 last night and at about 11:30, my housemate knocked on my door.
“Uh, Erin? There’s eight tents up already. I think we should camp.”
So, I got up, grabbed my tent and sleeping bag, called the friends who were going to meet me at 6 to tell them the change in plans, and headed over to the line. Estimated headcounts had us at about persons 50-55. At about 1 am, members of the Emerson String Quartet, cellist David Finkel and pianist Wu Han stopped by with the University Musical Society president to distribute chocolate and check up on the line, which was about twelve tents strong at that point. My housemate, a cellist himself, nearly had an aneurysm trying to explain how big a deal it was for him to meet these people. I was just glad to eat the chocolate.
Shortly thereafter, it started to rain. We climbed into our tents (or makeshift tents in some cases) and grabbed some shut eye. I woke up at about 8 and realized just how important it was to have gotten there when we did. The line stretched around the block (and it was still raining). With only 443 tickets total, maximum 170 for each of the three shows, most of those people weren’t going to get tickets.
But I have mine in my hand… one for the Tempest, with Patrick Stewart as Prospero, one for Antony and Cleopatra, with Stewart as Antony, and one for Julius Caesar.

Random Personal Things of Note

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First, last Friday I auditioned for the University of Michigan Women’s Glee Club and was officially informed today that I made it. (I was unofficially told this last Friday since there weren’t that many second altos auditioning — hurray for low voices.) I was one of two grad students auditioning and last year the group had no grad students — thus I find the following bit of information amusing:

Our second rehearsal will be Thursday from 4:30-6:30 in Aud. 4 of the MLB followed by a pizza party where you will meet your Big Sister.

I’m going to have at least three years on this “Big” sister. Awesome.
Second, it was sprinkling this morning, so I put on my MIT Ice Hockey jacket as I left the house. When I got on the bus, I woman I didn’t recognize approached me. “MIT ice hockey? I have that exact same jacket. When did you play?” Turns out her final season was the season before I got there and I recognized her name as one of the old captains. We chatted a bit about people we both knew — it didn’t surprise her at all to hear that ktfilion had coerced me into playing. How completely random…
Third, I’m planning on going to Cleveland this weekend to catch one, and possibly two games of the Twins-Indians series. I have one housemate who’s equally excited about this prospect. Hurray for finding people who favor baseball over Michigan football! And hurray for five Twins games in five stadiums in the past month and a half!

Greenfield Village

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Yesterday I had to drive a friend to the airport in the morning, which is actually located in between Detroit and Ann Arbor. Since I had already gone that far, I decided to keep going and visit the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village, a large museum complex founded by Henry Ford in the early half of the 20th century. I had visited the museum half, including the Baseball as America exhibit, a month ago when my parents were in town and decided to purchase a student membership, which comes with free admission and parking and “pays for itself” after two visits.
Of course, since it didn’t cost me anything, I started by zipping through Baseball as America again. This is Cooperstown’s traveling baseball memorabilia exhibit, “a national celebration of America’s romance with baseball.” Included in the collection are a 1909 Honus Wagner card (the most valued baseball card in existence at over a million dollars), the Abner Doubleday baseball, Babe Ruth’s bat, and a bunch of other stuff (including “The Shoebox of Baseball Cards Your Mother Threw Away”).
But I spent the bulk of yesterday exploring Greenfield Village, a 90 acre “town” full of historical buildings, including a working farm, an exact replica of Edison’s Menlo Park (the construction of which was overseen by both Ford and Edison to ensure that it was, in fact, an exact replica), and the actual childhood home and cycle shop of the Wright brothers, which was moved to Dearborn from Dayton, OH. I rode on a Hershel-Spillman carousel — apparently the only kind to include giant frogs (which I, of course, rode on) — and took a tour of the village in a 1921 Model T. The driver and I chatted a bit about cars, and I don’t think I have ever been more relieved to be a Ford driver. I suspect that if I had said I drove a Corolla, he wouldn’t have been as friendly. He was also impressed to hear that I drive a stick shift — “A lady who drives a manual!”
I also had a good long conversation with the presenter at the tinsmith house. I got her to break character a bit and tell me about her job. I was highly impressed that in every house I went to, the presenters were pretty able much able to answer whatever obscure question I answered. According to the “tin smith,” when they’re hired, they’re given a large binder for each house and/or “district” full of information. They’re told to read it and know it, and most of them do so during the slow periods of the day. A lot of the employees are also retirees who are just looking for entertaining and useful ways to spend their time, so apparently, depending on the era, some of them just know things because it was something that came up in their own lives. The Model-T drivers, for example, are almost entirely ex-Ford engineers who actually spent the bulk of their lives working with and designing cars and trucks.
All and all, it was an enjoyable way to spend an afternoon. On return trips, I’ll want to catch a Nationals/Lah-Di-Dahs game and take a ride in the steam engine locomotive that circles the village.