Friday, October 15, 2010

Property in Northern Michigan : What to do in the winter and other thoughts


Commentary – See All Commentary

By Mr Sig

Should we start buying up all the cheap property in Michigan?  I keep hearing the international sophisticates and US expats talking about purchasing swaths of cheap land to prepare for the coming economic apocalypse.  This seems to be a tune many people are singing these days.  What can we do about it?

Without having any knowledge of real estate markets, I think it's pretty safe to say that we'll leave the expensive downtown penthouses and multi-million dollar homes and commercial property to the experts.  But when I hear that I can buy about 10 acres or so of land near Quito, Ecuador for around $3,000, I start thinking really hard.  This stuff isn't just for those who have built large sums of capital over time.  Having a good chunk of property is well within even a moderately responsible saver.

I can only imagine that it is the same way in Michigan.  Although the prices of Michigan property are going to be higher than in Ecuador (I think!), they can't be THAT much higher.  Is Michigan going to be the next target for a major property grab?  Do we keep a high property tax because we want to try and ward off the big guns from essentially buying up all the land in this state?  Those may be questions for another time (and for the comments) but is now the time to start thinking about getting a few acres "up north" in preparation for the land boom or building that cottage you've always wanted?

I say yes.

It's a buy low, sell high principle.  In my experience, when news is terrible, it's time to buy.  When guns are blazing and everyone is getting right, it's time to sell.  So it's time to short Apple and Gold, right?  And then take the outrageous profits you make from it and grab 50 acres or so in Northern Michigan?  Absolutely!  Or, hell, you can buy up a city block in Flint, Lansing, or Detroit.

But back to Northern Michigan.  What do you do up there in the Winter?  In the summer, you are shielded from the 90+ temperatures and you get to experience the most beautiful place on earth.  Right now, there is snowmobiling, skiing, ice-fishing, and... hmm.. cold cold cold.  While these outdoor winter activities are attractive to some, I don't think they are attractive to the masses since I don't really see people retiring up there yet.

I'm going to pose a question now to our readers.  Of what value is northern Michigan property?  As part of a diverse portfolio of lifestyle options, how would property in northern Michigan contribute to the likes of Simon Black and Jim Rogers?  Maybe it would be a good location for a modern Galt's Gulch.  There has to be more to do and experience up there than what is currently going on, and I’m at a loss for ideas.  Help?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Grand Valley State University LipDub

Michigan Expats - News - See All News

There was a lot of focus last week on Michigan and Michigan State and the instate rivalry (update). That does not mean that we here at Michigan Expats are not aware of the many other fine Michigan institutions of higher education.

We bring up Grand Valley State University up today because of their spectacular LipDub video below. Yes, it is all one amazing shot. No cuts or edits. Be sure to check out the behind-the-scenes/making-of videos.

Apparently, this LipDub idea is a worldwide phenomenon that began in Germany. It's actually really cool. You can learn more at and see all of the of LipDub videos from all over the world.

My brother says that Calvin College has also done their own LipDub video, but they didn't release theirs this week, so it is not as timely. Once I find it, I'll post it on the Michigan Expats Facebook page and on Twitter.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Pink Arrow Pride

Michigan Expats - News - See All News

One of the things I miss most about Michigan is the emphasis on high school football. The Washington D.C. metro area is so nationally focused in the news cycle with the center of the federal government that local high school sports easily gets lost in the shuffle.

It's important to remember how high school football can rally a community and have a positive impact. The Pink Arrow Project  raises cancer awareness and a supports a local Gilda's Club, but more importantly it has transcended football in uniting a community. Granted I am a little bias as a graduate of Lowell High School and former Red Arrow football player, but the story is merited on it's own and it's great to see it highlighted by the national organization, High School Football America.

Detroit Beer Week, October 16-24

Michigan Expats - News - See All News

After the past couple of weeks have been dominated by Art Prize and UofM/MSU rivalry coverage, it's time to get back to one of our favorite topics here at Michigan Expats: Michigan Beer. 

There's a lot of exciting Michigan beer events coming up in Michigan that we want to let our readers know about in case you have plans to travel back home in the near future particularly as we are in the heart of homecoming season.

Goods news if you are going to be in the Detroit area in the next couple of weeks. The second annual Detroit Beer Week will begin this Saturday, October 16 and continue until it culminates in the Detroit Fall Beer Festival on October 23 in Eastern Market. There are great events scheduled throughout Detroit all week long.

I may be in Michigan that week and am going to make an effort to attend the beer festival or the after party at Atwater Block Brewery. If I make it, I'll be certain to post pictures and a full recap.

At the very least I always look forward to trying new seasonal Michigan brews that are not available here in the Washington D.C. market, and the Boffo Brown Ale from Dark Horse Brewing Co. of Marshall, MI is certainly high on my short list to try after reading Mark Sheppard's raving review. I may make a special stop in Marshall off I-69 and fill up a growler.

If you missed it, Mr. Sig and I recorded a series of podcasts tasting and reviewing beers from Bell's Brewing Co. out of Kalamazoo. You can also listen to those on iTunes (search: Michigan Expats). 

Let us know what your favorite Michigan breweries and beers are and what beers you would like us to review in the future.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Monday Morning Links

Michigan Expats - News - See All News

Good Morning and welcome to Monday. There was a lot of news coming out of Michigan this past weekend, but we'll try to touch on a variety of topics to help everyone stay informed and up to date. Please continue the discussion on any of these topics in the comments section, on Facebook, on Twitter @michiganexpats, or you can always shoot us an email at

After the jump:
Lions win and more Michigan sports news from this weekend; the Michigan gubernatorial debate; and stories on Michigan's economy.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Electric Cars will be cool, but won’t save the world

Commentary – See all Commentary

By Mr. Sig

My interest in electric cars jumped again when I saw a pair of articles regarding the recent craze in this week’s Economist Magazine.  I’m very skeptical about how practical they are, but I’m also pretty excited to see them on the road.  This excitement stems from two sources.  First, it represents the first real leap in automotive infrastructure in a long time.  Second, I’m tired of seeing all those Toyota Prius’ out on the road.  These cars just make me think of socialist hipsters sipping some goofy drink at Starbucks and talking about how great their Mac is.  Based on what I’ve read, the extra expense for them doesn’t start saving you money in gas until many years after you’ve owned the car.  So, by default, the car is a statement car which only leads me to what I consider accurate conclusions about the people who drive them.  But enough with judging individuals I’ve never met.  It always seems to lead to trouble anyway. 

Let me get back to my first point.  “It represents the first real leap in automotive infrastructure in a long time.”  I use infrastructure rather than call it “revolutionary” because I don’t consider anything in electric cars to be revolutionary in the way the internal combustion engine was.  I can only conclude that the electric car promoters must have hired the PR people from Apple Computer.  Let’s think about that.  Steve Jobs has never invented or created anything all that new or revolutionary.  No, not even the graphical user interface… that was Xerox.  He didn’t invent the smartphone, he didn’t invent digital music.  He didn’t create anything.  What he did was take existing things that sucked, thought about them a little bit, and then repackaged them into something that didn’t suck.  There is something to be said for that, that’s for sure, but let’s not call him the inventor of these things.  I see the electric car the same way.  Let’s take the Tesla car for example.  It takes some mighty balls to do what Elon Musk did… that is… really take a big jump into an industry that is thus far unproven and technologically questionable within a consumer price range.  What I ask is, how hard is it really to just take a bazillion laptop batteries and shove them into the trunk of a car.  Then route them to electric motors that drive the powertrain.  I couldn’t do that, but I know enough that it can’t be terribly complicated to do with a handful of good engineers.  Mr. Musk was just the first person to put all the pieces together.  So far, the business is not doing well, but that has not stopped the Tesla Roadster from generating a massive amount of publicity.

The Economist’s article brings up several valid criticisms of the electric car craze.  First, it notes that while electric cars do not put out greenhouse gasses, they still need electricity.  And electricity comes from power plants which spit out greenhouse gasses.  The more electric cars we have, the more power plants will be necessary.  Decades in the future, it is possible that we will not use petroleum for our power generation, but that is still many years away.  Next, it brings up a point that I’ve never thought of before.  Even if we have an alternative way of generating our energy, or even just a “greener” fuel to use in our power plants, electric-powered vehicles are still a “costly way of abating CO2 emissions.”  I was amazed to see another example touted by Richard Pike, an executive with the Royal Society of Chemistry.  He commented that replacing all of Britain’s petrol-powered cars with subsidized electric ones would cost about 150B pounds.  This change would reduce carbon emissions in the UK by 2%.  With the same amount of money, “Britain could replace its entire power-generation stock with solar cells and cut its emissions by a third.

All this leads me to the conclusion that electric cars are awesome, and I want one.  I also want a computer monitor that I can roll up like a piece of paper.  And I would like all LED-light bulbs in my house.  These technologies are certainly possible, and any one of them could be propped up to get going with heavy subsidies.  But the natural “real” development of the industry is still a ways off.  I fear that our government is jumping on this electric car bandwagon too early, and the money they spend subsidizing the industry is diverting resources away from perhaps more important but less sexy things like battery technology.  This has been the historical record of industry subsidies which makes me very skeptical that the electric car movement is going to go anywhere and could perhaps ruin existing car companies in the process.  This would not bode well for Michigan whose car companies (save for Ford) are still gasping for air.

However, if I was given the option to trade in my 2007 Monte Carlo for a Chevy Volt, would I take it?

You bet I would!

Would you?  Let me know in the comments.