Thursday, April 27, 2006


Basically I sued the seller of my house and his realtor. I felt writing about this might allow me to put it to rest and maybe help others from having the same crap happen to them. The hearing was at my house at 9 AM today. In attendance: the seller, his wife, his lawyer, his realtor, his realtor’s lawyer, the arbitrator, another arbitrator just sitting in for observation, my lawyer (THANKS MIKE!), and myself. 3 hours later I’ve concluded my seller is a moron. Within 30 days I should have a decision from the arbitrator.

The simple timeline is this: I bought a house in March ’04, the seller disclosed it had a new roof in ’98, my home inspector said he couldn’t fully inspect the roof because it was covered by snow (but not to worry because a professionally installed asphalt shingle roof lasts 17-25 years), after moving in it leaked in two separate places, and the chimney for the wood burning fireplace in my master bedroom came off, my neighbors told me the seller (an accountant) put the roof on over an entire summer himself with no permits, 3 roofers and a fireplace specialist said it was done all wrong and needed to be replaced, I contacted the seller, his reply; tough break, buzz off, I submitted a demand to the arbitration service CAS to get enough money from the seller/realtor to fix the problem they concealed. Whew.

So, to those of you that knew all this happened, and those that didn’t; sorry I may have talked about it non-stop for the last year/been extremely grumpy. The sun is shining, I have the day off from work, and I’m going to go shoot some baskets (on my new hoop, photos coming soon!)

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Ceiling Round 3: Hanging rock

12 foot panels of 5/8" sheetrock are heavy. My buddy Mike seemed to be able to handle them fine when he helped me get them into the house, as did my friend Travis when we hung them for 8 hours. But without the Telpro panel lifter it would have taken days to get the job done.

Travis Tip of the Day: the easiest way to cut out holes for electic boxes or vents is to cover the item's edges with a generous coat of lipstick, then put the sheetrock up into place, remove it and cut the outline made by the lipstick for a perfect cut. The next step to the ceiling makeover is mudding/taping the joints, then paint.
Geek Prom?

Yeah I went. And man was my date smoking hot next to the giant blood cells, weather displays, and T-Rex skeleton. This year's Geek Prom was held at the Science Museum of Minnesota for the first time. The larger venue and good press seemed to help bring out a strange group. Lots of nerds and wanna-be nerds attended. I like science and sci-fi movies so on one level I could relate. On several other levels I could not. Christina reveled at the chance to put on an all sequin dress and I admit I've never worn rainbow trout socks with sandals before.

Friday, April 21, 2006


I really like the interactive aspect of a blog. So you'll notice I try and put at least a few hyperlinks in my posts. Click on them; they'll take you to magical places. Sometimes I find or hear about a website that kicks butt. Each month I will update the LINK OF THE MONTH in my LINKS section on the left side of my blog.

Check out Dokaka, a beatbox artist from Japan. When I found his site I went immediatly to the Steely Dan renditions. Genius! For the rest of April enjoy the world of Star Wars; Wikipedia style with Wookieepedia.

Monday, April 17, 2006

April 17, 2006
David Carr

Steal This Newspaper
ABOUT a month ago, The Star Tribune in Minneapolis let it be known that, as a cost-cutting effort, free copies of the newspaper would no longer be broadly available around the newsroom.

Instead, the staff was offered an electronic edition of the paper — "an exact digital reproduction of the printed version," no less — that they could access online. Those who insisted on seeing the fruits of the their labors in its physical form were told that they could purchase copies for 25 cents, half the retail cost, from boxes around the office. (This change in policy was first reported by City Pages in Minneapolis.)

So far, so weird. Journalism is not jammed with perks — well, not at most newspapers, anyway — but it was always assumed that you could grab a gratis sports section on the way to lunch.

Last Monday, the going got weirder. Star Tribune reporters who came to work and booted up were greeted by the following message from Steve Alexander, senior vice president for circulation, who had been spending time researching the program's introduction:
"During the first week that the additional on-site racks were in service, 43 percent of the Star Tribunes removed from those racks were not paid for. For the second week the rate was 41 percent. This is called 'pilferage' in our business; but put more plainly, it is theft, pure and simple."

Mr. Alexander proceeded apace:
"Taking more than one newspaper from a rack when you have only inserted enough money for one paper is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. Employees who steal newspapers will put their jobs at risk. There is zero tolerance when it comes to stealing from our company, even if it is a 25-cent newspaper."

When the memo landed on Romenesko, the journalism site, the company, rather than realizing that it had stepped in something unwholesome, began telling employees that the leaker would be found out and dealt with. The sideshow left some employees embarrassed and wondering why a debate over free personal copies of the paper was obscuring the fact that the public was buying the newspaper — and almost any newspaper — less frequently.

"The whole free newspaper-Romenesko leak issue is our version of the gay marriage debate," said Jon Tevlin, a staff writer. "We're deeply in debt, circulation is falling and profits are down 14 percent this quarter. So let's obsess about something that isn't really very significant."

THE episode hit a sour note for the McClatchy Company, the owner of The Star Tribune, which has been doing a victory lap after buying some Knight Ridder properties. Reached last Friday, Robert J. Weil, vice president of operations at McClatchy, expressed wan support for the no-free-papers initiative — "everyone in the industry is under tremendous expense pressure" — before getting out the 10-foot pole. "McClatchy had nothing to do with this decision. Our newspapers all operate autonomously."

Ben Taylor, the paper's senior vice president of marketing and communication, offered a more robust defense that went like this: The newspaper has a long tradition of protecting employees from layoffs, so it is searching every corner to cut costs.

"We were looking for ways to save money that do not impact our product or our customers," said Mr. Taylor, adding that the personal copies totaled more than 4,000 on weekdays and 5,000 on Sunday. He said that the cost savings for the paper, which has a daily circulation of 379,713 and 666,683 on Sunday, was "significant." There is a tedious logic to all of this. People who make doughnuts or lattes or S.U.V.'s do not get to consume their products freely. But whacking the incremental costs of producing a few thousand extra copies of a newspaper seems not worth the profound statement it makes. Those free papers buy a huge amount of good will internally, a totem of a daily miracle that is produced and admired. They are also a reminder, amid all the bad headlines in the industry, that there is civic good under way.

Predictably, the new policy enraged the people who actually make the newspaper, some of whom apparently engaged in the guerilla tactic of putting a quarter in for their copy and then plopping many others on top of the box for the grabbing. More broadly, the Dickensian policy poured gasoline on the culture of complaint that is everyday newsroom life.

Doug Grow, a Star Tribune columnist, recalled that The New York Times once called his paper "the most ridiculed newspaper in the country" for its adoption of new-age policies, like banning "Redskins" and other American Indian nicknames in sports stories. He said he felt the crown had passed to The Times after the Jayson Blair episode.

"I think this is our attempt to win it back," he said. "One of the benefits of getting older is that this becomes just another chapter in the ongoing comedy. Our stock is dropping and we have cost issues, so maybe we can take away reporter's notebooks while we are at it."

There is an implicit broader message. If the people who make the paper believe that an electronic version of the product is just as good as the one readers pay for, why bother subscribing? This month, Jack Shafer, the media columnist for Slate, suggested that the new, improved Web site of The New York Times had persuaded him to stop paying $621.40 for an annual subscription.

It is one thing to beaver away, building out a digital gallows. Given reader habits and industry trends, that kind of innovation is required. But at some point — perhaps when reporters are denied access to newspapers — publishers are saying something else to their employees and their readers: What you're holding has no value.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Webby Awards anyone?

The Webby Awards is the leading international award honoring excellence in web design, creativity, usability and functionality. Established in 1996 during the web's infancy, the Webbys are presented by The International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences, a 500-member body of leading web experts, business figures, luminaries, visionaries and creative celebrities. Check out some of the coolest websites out there.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Ceiling Round 2

Second time around was more efficient. Clean-up time was probably cut in half by throwing away all the tarps and using the blowing feature on my shop vac before sucking stuff up. More clothes pins, some weird metal tools, a glove, and a super old fuse were found; but by far the treasure from the family room ceiling was the two pictures above. There was an address of a photography studio on Lake and Bloomington in Minneapolis, but no date or names. From my photo class days in college I think it's safe to say these are probably calotype images because they seem to be prints from a negative. If they are actually daguerreotype images they might be older than my house (1922).

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Yar ther mattie, protect your eyes!

So my next purchase at Menards or Home Depot is likely to be safety goggles. And not regular hard lenses, but actual goggles with a top, bottom and sides. Too much got in my eye working on the ceiling and I had to see the doctor. I got a Fluorescein eye exam-test were a yellow dye in my eye allowed the doctor to look for any abrasions or objects with a black light. Nothing came of it except a sigh of relief, a prescription antibiotic, and a gauze eye patch that made me feel like a real pirate minus the parrot and sword. Just in case I've started to study my new identity.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Ceiling Makeover

Christina and I spent 8 hours in my dining room today laying tarps and drop cloths (with pads underneath), tearing down plaster, wood lathe, blown in insulation, and finally cleaning up. We found a lot of peanuts shells, a few clothes pins, an old comb, a wooden bobber, a Christmas present tag, and a State of Minnesota small game hunting permit circa 1932 in the ceiling joists and within the insulation. Next step; sheet rock and a new light (and the same process in my family room).

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Just a little trim.

Before and after shots of my next door neighbor's elm tree. And the aftermath. If he didn't get it deadwooded it was only a matter of time before a branch broke off and ripped down my power lines.