Den of the Cyphered Wolf

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Southfield Citizen Observer Crime Bulletin December 10-16, 2012

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Southfield, City Council Meeting December 17, 2012

City Council meeting held in Southfield, Michigan on December 17, 2012 at 7:00pm.

Topics Include
  • A Q & A Session in which the Road Commission of Oakland County discusses the possible outcomes of the Walmart development at 12-Mile Road and Southfield Road.
  • Regulating  landscaping entrance way and window obstruction and visible external storage.
  • The possibility of an art commission
  • Taxicab bond plates
  • Applying for a grant that would allow construction of two stretches of sidewalks
An agenda and related documents can be found here

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Magic Primer: Metaconcepts

So about halfway through writing "Getting Back in the Saddle" I realized that nobody was going to have a clue as to what I was saying, unless you played Magic The Gathering. After thinking about it a bit I thought I should revisit an old idea and create a bit of a primmer on Magic The Gathering so that when I talk about it on this blog, which I will at length, people have an idea or at least an article about what I'm talking about. Eventually I'll get to the rules and even some advanced concepts but I thought a good place to start would be metaconcepts, not how to play the game but what the game is.

What Do I Mean By Meta?
For the purpose of this series I'm breaking things up into three groups. meta-concepts, rules (which by the way will have multiple sub-posts) and advanced concepts. Meta concepts are things that in my mind you don't need to know in order to play the game, or even play the game well, but tend to be discussed in Magic circles.

What is Magic the Gathering?
Magic The Gathering is one of the first, if not the first trading card games. Before Duel Monster, Digimon, Pokemon, Chaotic, or even the franchise TCGs like Dragon Ball Z there was Magic. In the game you play the role of a planeswalker or wizard dueling depending on how, deep you want to roleplay. I'll get to what exactly a planeswalker is later. It's complicated and weird, but for now lets just say multiverse traveling wizard. 

Whenever I'm going to tell and epic Magic the Gathering story at somepoint or another it's going to devolve into flavor. Well what is flavor. Imagine a videogame. Now let's pretend you had no graphics. Well that's okay because all the animations rely on math to tell them what to do. The death animation occurs when you guy's hit point number reaches zero. But you don't say, "The life counter reached 0" You say Link died.

Flavor represents sort of what's taking place in the minds eye. For instance while I won't get into what in terms of the rules the card does when you play the card Lightning Bolt, you think.

Also flavor represents the lore of the game. For instance a lot of cards may reference events,places or people in game lore, such as Coalition Victory, representing the Dominarian victory of Phyrexia.

Expansions and How Cards Are Released
Wizards of the Coast, normally, Lorwyn was weird, releases an expansion block and core set of Magic each year.

Core sets
In general the core sets are designed to provide players the basic no frills tools they need to play the game. They tend to have simpler more easily understood cards then expansions, largely because they are expected to be teaching tools for new players.  While Wizards of the Coast, position has changed slightly recently, generally the core sets were relatively consistent. Recent core sets have surprised a lot of players because a lot of the cards that they took for granted were going to be there forever have been replaced by newer ones.

How the main sets are referred to can be weird so here goes. In the beginning, '93ish Richard Garfield released this new game. This was alpha the first core set. The game sold like hotcakes so he printed up a second printing, which is referred to as beta. These have mostly the same cards and can be thought of as same set, which together is referred to as limited. Mostly these sets are known for two things, creating the foundation of the game, and a lot of "early installment weirdness". Mainly insanely broken, or overpowered cards that for the sake of game balance are no longer in print.  Conversely these sets also had a lot of mainstays that remain player favorites.

After that wizards mostly stuck to naming editions based on how many there had been before, but in 2010 they decided to start naming them based on the year so the current set which will be playable in Standard Format through most of 2013 is called Magic 2013.


Expansions sets are released to keep the game fresh. Typically three of these that share a setting and theme are released each year. Together they are called a block. Normally blocks are named after the first set of the block so the current block will be called Return to Ravnica after the first set. 


The way I think of format is as sort of commonly understood addendums to the rules. The most common "addendum" is a restriction on the cards you can play. When I was in high school I had a hard time getting my friends into magic because they were intimidated by the thousands of potential cards they had to deal with. One of the most common formats his standard which restricts cards to only those printed or reprinted in roughly the last two years.  You also have formats that dramatically add to the rules like Commander, and Archenemy.

So often times you will hear player refer to casual or "casual formats." What do they mean. Well it's weird. Wizards of the Coast has a lot of organized play. But it's generally accepted that that's not where everybody plays the game. Think of it like this. You had your high school basketball team who had coaches, refs and nice gym lines, and then you had everyone else who would play a quick pickup game after school in the driveway. The differences are similar. The rules are enforced not with a ref who has a 2 ton book, but by the players themselves. The stakes are lower if you loose who gives a damn. You didn't have to pay an entrance fee.

Oddly enough the lack of format has become a format.  You'll hear people all the time referring to casual format. Or formats when talking about things like Commander. Since casual generally has lower stakes causal players are more willing to play cards that are fun but won't necessarily win them the game.

The Metagame
The quickest way I can explain the metagame is the as the expected strategies and cards in any given environment.  Let's pretend we're talking about race car driving. You're driving a few hours after it rained. So you know damn near every driver who knows what the hell he or she's doing is going to put on tires that have better grip. You can also probably predict how they will adjust they're driving. This is all information you can use to mentally prepare yourself for the race.

Same deal. Let's take standard. Because of the limited card pool there are generally only 10-15 tournament level competitive deck archetypes in that format.

Deck Archetypes
I'll talk alittle more about this later, but deck archetypes are basically acceptable strategies. While every now and again someone will come out with a "rogue deck" most viable strategies in the game have been tried before. Learning to recognize the pacing and cards that make up a given strategy can be a huge advantage. While I alluded to it earlier magic can be an information cancan. Meaning it can get into I know you know I know territory.

Player Archetypes
While not crucial to the game player archetypes are interesting.  Wizards of the Coast, I'll just call them Wizards from here on in, when designing cards tries to categorize who the card is for by splitting players in to three well four if you count old Vorthos, into mindsets.

Vorthos - Plays the game for flavor. This is the guy who will try his damnedest to make a Weatherlight deck work, ride the dragon, and invent or play as character who's slinging his spells.  Radha badass Keldon Warlord, commanding a mighty host.

Timmy - Likes big splashy things. Timmies tend to be the guys who will overlook how hard it is to make a card work for the sake of it being cool.  Who cares if you'll win only 1 out 4 games. The one will be superspecialawesome.

Johnny- Likes things that are bigger than the sum of their parts and thus is willing to play cards that don't do much on their own, but in concert can do awesome stuff. I like to think of Johnnies as clock masters. Most people would look at a screw and throw it away, not Johnnies. They'll try to fit that screw into a monster clock that will mop the floor with you.

Spike - Just likes to win and judges how good a card is based on that criteria. How likely is this card going to win me games?

December 10, 2012 Southfield Road Corridor Concept Drawings

At the Southfield Road Corridor Project December 10, 2012 Open House, the public had the opportunity to view concept drawings of early ideas the Oakland County Road Commission has of the future of Southfield Road.

Also while at the open house I conducted an interview with Tom Blust, Road Commission for Oakland County Engineering Director.

More Information can be found at and

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

In Defense of Free Speech Part Four (You Know, Maybe I Should Do Away With the Pretense Of Not Being An Advocate/Activist.)

What follows is a email I am sending to the Southfield Board of Education

Hello. I am Greg Miles. I am blogger who records audio of local public meetings including Southfield Board of Education meetings. You are considering altering your public participation rules. Recently, the Southfield City Council began to consider a similar move, (Discussion of this particular issue begins roughly 2 hours and 27 minutes into the meeting/video) to reduce the time residents had to speak from 5 minutes to three. I wrote an editorial on my blog describing my opposition to Council’s change and eventually spoke during a City Council meeting on the issue. In the effort of moral consistency, I oppose your proposed changes and am emailing you a link to the blog post I had originally written.

Also here is the prepared speech I gave. (I got nervous, slurred and verbally veered a bit during the actual meeting which incidentally is probably the first thing you’ll hear at the time on the video I provided.)

Statement to Council on Communication Changes
Good evening. I am Greg Miles. I reside at 19116 Greenwald Dr. I am here today to oppose the proposed change to Council's communications rules. I feel that recently the ability of residents to address their concerns to council has been constrained, for example moving the communications portion of meetings to the end. I feel that the proposed change would further make it harder for residents to address council.

While I understand the frustration Council may feel at some of residents' misinformation or lack of decorum, I feel that people must have a way to address their local government in person. Most of us can't travel to Washington, or in some cases even Lansing. You are the governmental officials that the public has the most access to. You are our community leaders. When the bureaucracy is broken you're the super.

Furthermore, while I, like you, often disagree with what some of the more antagonizing residents have to say, I feel that there is value in listening to them. Some of the details of facts they cite may be wrong, but they often have valid criticisms of the city government such as the length of time it took the city to hire a new Police Chief. Even when I disagree completely with them I find value in the knowledge that people exist in this city that hold their beliefs.

I further believe that to restrict the ability of residents to communicate with Council is unfair to residents whom may have made arrangements in order to be at meetings. For instance at an April meeting an active member of the community was dismayed when although she was first on the agenda she was made to wait a little over an hour to speak before Council. Often times other residents leave before they have an opportunity to state their concerns. I don't know why but I feel that it may be because they have other responsibilities to attend to, such as family and work, when the meetings run long.

I also understand that there is a concern about how long the meetings have been running and the need to move items off agenda to compensate. To that I would say that I believe that residents should not be penalized for that, and in the coming weeks when Council schedules next year's meetings it takes into consideration the need to meet more often as to my knowledge Council has met slightly less often in 2012 than they have in 2011.

I also am unsatisfied with the Council's proposed solution, to give residents 3 minutes and extend time if Council deems it necessary. I feel that this adds a subjective element to the rules that may not be fair. What if Council never extends time for those who criticizes them, even justly? It is through such criticism that many of the problems within the city are brought to light.

I believe your proposed rule changes go even further than the Council’s because, in my view it provides a nuclear option whereas the Board President would have the authority to, “terminate a participant's statement,” under what I consider a very subjective set of guidelines and limits the participation portion to thirty minutes creating a scenario in which a very controversial issue will have limited public input.

Thank You
Greg Miles

P.S. Because I am a blogger I don’t like to try to affect public policy, especially in secret, so whenever I send an email like this one I try post a copy of it on my blog for the sake of transparency.

Southfield Police Citizen Observer Crime Bulletin December 3-9, 2012

Southfield Board of Education Meeting December 11, 2012

Southfield Public School District Board of Education Meeting held December 11, 2012

Topics Include

  • Congratulations from Oakland County Commissioner Janet Jackson to Superintendent Wanda Cook-Robinson for being named MASA superintendent of the year
  • Experiences of students at a National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) competition and conference
  • A resolution in opposition to recent right-to-work legislation
  • Changes in the public participation policy for meetings

An agenda and related documents can be found here.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

December 10, 2012 Southfield City Council Meeting

City Council Meeting held in Southfield, Michigan on December 10, 2012 at 7:00 pm

Topics Include

  •  Presentation of a joint resolution to Wanda Cook-Robinson regarding to her recently being named Superintendent of the Year by the Michigan Association of School Administrators (MASA)
  • Presentation of the Keep Michigan Beautiful President's Plaque for the Carpenter Lake Nature Preserve
  • Comments made by the public regarding possible rezoning and Walmart site plan
An agenda and related documents can be found here

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Journals of the Michigan House and Senate for December 6, 2012 (Right to Work)

Names I Call Myself in My Head (Damn I Have A Big Ego)

Danny Boy
Madman Miles
Motor City Miles
The Cyphered Wolf
Running Wolf
The Mirrored Dog
The Wordsmith
God's Sentinel

Names I call my pad in my head

The Watchtower
The Aries

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Southfield City Council December 3, 2012 Regular Meeting (Walmart Introduction)

Regular City Council meeting held at 7:00 in Southfield Michigan on December 3, 2012

Topics include
  • The proposed Walmart and relevant rezoning 

Sub-issues include
  • The seperation of macro issues such as labor practices and micro issues such as land use 
  • Wal-mart wages and labor practices
  • Traffic 
  • Garbage disposal 
  • The current condition of the proposed site 

An agenda and related documents can be found here.

December 3, 2012 Special Southfield City Council Meeting

Special City Council meeting held in Southfield, Michigan on December 3, 2012 at 5:30

Topics Include 
  • A Brownfield Redevelopment Amendment 
  • Proposed Parking and drainage improvements to Inglenook Park 
  • A proposed walking path on the Southfield Municipal Campus
  • LED Gas Signs

An agenda and related documents can be found here

Sunday, December 2, 2012

La Locura De Walmart

To Describe The Madness 
It came to a head last night: the boredom: the frustration. It was four days since I escaped the madhouse. I had finally fully recovered from headache and echoes, of the copious amounts of caffeine that that sleepless night had caused me to drink.

I knew I had to write on what I saw, but how. How to relate to my audience the insanity of it all, the complete absurdity? One of my comforts through it was that I was able to read Bonfire of the Vanities, but this occasion does not call for the style of Wolfe. No! He is too subtle in his disgust, anger, befuddlement, and eventual acceptance of it all. No! Now it is time to transform myself into that other madman of the Stone who so often was stoned. This shall be one of the few moments where I think to truly relate the experiences of the last few weeks in the menagerie of madness I must go gonzo.

In this one instance, it is difficult if not impossible to put into context the hadron collider that is Southfield, Michigan, without being subjective. Without saying flat out that sometimes this town is fucking nuts!

The Ringing Voices
For nearly a year I had been hearing whispers that Wal-Mart was coming to town, but like most changes in the wind I ignored them to go about the business of my day. I have always and probably will always live my life a week at a time. Why shouldn't a 25-year-old, 24 when this whole mess started, have the liberty of being shortsighted?

Eventually those whispers became a ringing shouting in my ear. "Miles," they said, "get your ass on it. This has all the likelihood of being a second Golden Corral"

To understand this circus you must understand that carnival.

Burned to a Husk

Nearly a year ago I attempted to cover that fiasco with a cool detachment. While I thought much of the opposition to that was nuts there was never a one I didn't like. I thought I owed it to them and the job.

But after nearly two years listening to the city leaders I now have an awareness of our crucible, but I'll get to that later.

Larry Weiland. The man seemed pleasant enough, a bit like your fun uncle. He had the job of convincing the Southfield City Council and the Planning Commission to allow the company he represented to take what at the time was a burned down building and rebuild it into a restaurant.

It seemed simple enough no one was using the building, which stood as a testament to the decaying state of the city. Southfield, once designed as an office community was and still is in the middle of the post '08 real-estate slump, with an office vacancy rate above 20% in 2011.

The residents hated the idea of building it, mostly for the same reasons they object to building a Walmart now. Before I get to those allow me to take a moment to explain that while I am mostly speaking on the Golden Corral at the same time Lawrence Technological University, a local University wanted permission to build a new dormitory and there was just as much if not more resistance to it. The only reason why I'm not going into detail on that is because eventually the university obtained permission to build, but Golden Corral didn't.

They broke Weiland. After 5 or 6 meetings and what must have been at least tens of thousands of dollars, he and his company ended up with a goose egg. It was so bad that both his architect lawyer and the Mayor spoke saying that decision might give the city a reputation for being difficult to conduct business in. As I watched the fun uncle become less and less fun I realized, I had never thought of Southfield as being a rough town. I thought the worst that could happen to a man was bullet to the heart, or maybe a skull stomping. I was wrong.

It probably didn't help that it was nearly a just over a month out from a very contentious city council election.

The Devil Came In a Suit

Okay first off when I say the devil I mean the whole damn mess. I was lured into a false sense of security by the first few meetings  but now it's clear to me this thing is going to be wild. While it was clear that a lot of folks didn't want the Walmart, the meetings were relatively tame and well balanced. Nobody seemed to loathe the idea. Oppose it? Sure.  Fair criticism of a large and important project. But the rhetoric never seemed like a cobra's poison, or maybe it did. Like a spider or snake bite I didn't notice it until it was far too late.

The Hidden Gangrene

The big problem with the city is it isn't what it was suppose to be, and because of that nobody is happy with what it is. I said it earlier but I'll say it again. The city was designed as a office community. People would come to work here from Detroit and outlying suburbs and then go home. That's not the case, anymore. Due to a lauded public safety and public education reputation in the '80's and '90s a lot of people, including my folks moved to the city, creating a population boom that hit its zenith around 2000.

Due to the fact that nobody was expected to actually live here the roads were designed as mini-highways for travel in and out of the city, making it difficult to get from place to place in the city and nightmare for pedestrians. Because these mini-highways are used as mini-highways traffic is god awful, and there isn't really a whole lot anyone can do about it. It is what it is and we all just have to live with it.

View Larger Map

Because yes the traffic is a safety hazard for those living here it is one of the biggest issues in these types of fights. But I also keep getting the feeling that the traffic is also being used as a smokescreen for those who just plain don't like these types of developments.

Also because this city was designed as a place to be commuted to and from there is a shortage of retail and other services, which can make living here a bit inconvenient. I mentioned before in "I really want a downtown"

 The Hidden Cancer

Again I must return to the real-estate slump. Because of the declining property values, the basis for how much tax is paid and relatively high office vacancy rate the city has less money to operate. The public library is on reduced hours and last year to keep from layoffs the city asked for a millage. While there has been a fairly spectacular monetary juggling act, it's clear that if the city doesn't increase its funds eventually there may be some spectacular cuts, hell there already have been.

Furthermore, the city needs to update and repair various aspects of its infrastructure but has very limited financial wiggle room to do so, major improvements that in the long run could save money and improve safety get punted, especially in the area of roads.

This is important because the Walmart development could bring in $100,000 a year in taxes to the city not counting the tax it would pay to other entities like schools and the state.

Chasing Eden

A lot of the individuals who came to Southfield during that boom I mentioned earlier, came in retreat of Detroit. And to a faction of them this Walmart represents everything they hated about it. Increased traffic, big box stores, low paying wages, destruction of nature, light pollution, noise pollution. They hate developments like these. How do I know? Because a lot of the same people who are opposing the Walmart are the same ones who opposed the Golden Corral. Don't get me wrong though. The two sites are not all that far apart, but still the same arguments are being made. Heck these same arguments are part of the reason why I don't get sidewalks.

Even those who are not necessarily opposed to retail development in the city in general hate the idea of the Walmart being "there," close to where they live.

Chasing Heaven

Then there is the religious factor, those who are infuriated that in order to build the new Walmart the church that currently resides there is going to have to be demolished. In particular there was one pastor who attempted to purchase the land for his parishioners who brought the whoop and holler at the November 28, public hearing.

Здравствуйте! and 112 Dead Comrades

Over the Thanksgiving weekend, a lot happened involving Wal-mart. For starters there was a horrendous fire in a garment factory that Wal-mart has a connection to. I'm still fuzzy on what exactly that connection entails, but it's there. I think the factory was owned by a Wal-mart supplier.

Also there was a labor strike on Black Friday. These things coincided to make nearly every pro-labor person in town outraged. One woman was yelling at the commission after the November 28, meeting that they had bangladeshi blood on their hands after they approved the recommendation to city council for the Walmart to be built.

The union may be weaker the further north you go but down here it seems pretty damn strong.

Investment in Infrastructure

One of the things that makes the Walmart really tempting is that how much they are saying they will invest in the traffic infrastructure around the area, helping to improve traffic signals. While no one is saying that the investment would solve all of the area's traffic problems it would at least mitigate some of the traffic harm the Walmart might cause and it's something the government probably couldn't do on its own for a long while.

It's going to get nuttier
The thing folks is that it took a six hour meeting just to get the planning commission to vote on a recommendation to the City Council. What the hell is going to happen when we're actually talking about the enchilada?

Correction: An earlier version of this post mistakenly stated that the November 28, 2012 planning hearing took place on November 29, and also erroneously implied that improvements at the intersection in question would be the responsibility of the Road Commission for Oakland County.

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