Christmas Post-mortem

Monday, 29 December 2008

It is nice to be back home in Cleveland. I spent a week back in my old Indiana stomp­ing grounds; mainly eat­ing and vis­it­ing with my fam­ily. Christmas it­self was ex­cel­lent, even though I only man­aged to scrape to­gether 2 hours of sleep af­ter mid­night mass. The grand­par­ents and any­one who was on our Christmas card list re­ceived this photo:

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which was taken by my friend and coworker Greg Wilson a few months back. He’s a great pho­tog­ra­pher.

My fudge turned out to be the best ever this year. I think I’ve fi­nally fig­ured out the proper pro­por­tions of in­gre­di­ents to use, and the best way to let it set. I used a 5# bag of sugar do­ing my hol­i­day bak­ing. In the realm of presents I re­ceived an an­i­ma­tronic chip­munk, $20 of as­sorted in­stant oat­meal pack­ets, a toaster oven, a go set, and some slip­pers. I gave Debbie a 3# jar of but­tons, a red cardi­gan, and a wal­let which was part of a run­ning gag we have.

Abraham re­ceived a mo­bile com­mand sta­tion. I’m off un­til the 5th, time which will be spent fix­ing the kitchen sink [bad sup­ply lines], do­ing some ad­di­tional weath­er­proof­ing [us­ing my new home re­pair book] and de­vot­ing some much needed time to catch­ing up with friends and Design State.

RIP Tremonter

Sunday, 21 December 2008

I killed Tremonter tonight. It was a good ex­per­i­ment, and taught me a lot about the neigh­bor­hood. Through it, I met a bunch of won­der­ful neigh­bor­hood peo­ple and an­other bunch of won­der­ful Cleveland peo­ple. Through it, I be­came part of the Cleveland Foundation’s Neighborhood Connections Grant Committee, and was sent to some neigh­bor­hood lead­er­ship train­ing in Nashville. Through that, in con­junc­tion with some other folks from Cleveland, I helped put to­gether a Cleveland Youth Summit at City Hall. Because of Tremonter, I was threat­ened with a law­suit, threat­ened with phys­i­cal vi­o­lence, told I was racist, and told I was a cor­po­rate shill. Good times.

For the first year or so, the site just con­sisted of me post­ing things I found on­line that had to do with my neigh­bor­hood, busi­nesses, lo­cal weblogs, lo­cal artists, art gal­leries, events. Eventually the read­er­ship was high enough that strangers started com­ing up to me and telling me how great the site was.

Then I opened the site up for any­one to post, which is prob­a­bly why I now have gray hairs. At first it was still shiny, happy peo­ple hold­ing hands, but then folks started show­ing up and forc­ing their agen­das all over the place, in your face. Names were called, feel­ings hurt, and new rules had to be put in place. About the time I raised money for two more years of host­ing by putting ads from lo­cal busi­nesses on the site [some­thing like $30 for a year of ad­ver­tis­ing], I started get­ting emails from peo­ple who were try­ing to fig­ure out why they were be­ing at­tacked by com­plete [to them] anony­mous strangers on my site. At first I tried to ex­plain, but more and more of­ten I had to read emails that were from peo­ple who were telling me that they could no longer visit Tremonter be­cause the tone was now so an­tag­o­nis­tic.

The com­pli­ments about the site be­came less fre­quent, and then stopped al­to­gether. Users threw my rules back in my face and were shocked when they were pun­ished for it. Folks started reg­is­ter­ing mul­ti­ple ac­counts un­der anony­mous names and post­ing pos­i­tive things again. For a bit, this gave me hope, new, pos­i­tive blood, un­til I found out that it was ac­tu­ally the case and had to put my foot down.

For the last year, the site has been noth­ing but an en­dur­ing headache. The only emails I get now are from peo­ple who have com­plaints about the peo­ple us­ing the site, or com­plaints about the site from peo­ple who are us­ing it. I no longer de­rive any per­sonal ben­e­fit from Tremonter. It has been that way for awhile, I’ve kept Tremonter open for longer than I should have, out of a sense of re­spon­si­bil­ity for what had be­come an im­por­tant news and gos­sip source for the neigh­bor­hood.

I con­sid­ered burn­ing the cur­rent in­car­na­tion of Tremonter and re­set­ting it as a picked-au­thor neigh­bor­hood ‘zine, and even bounced the idea off of a few trusted folks. Then I tried to fig­ure out just how long it would take me to get all of that set up. Then I re­ceived a few more emails from peo­ple who were very po­lite, and not con­de­scend­ing in the least, but were once again hurt by be­ing at­tacked by strangers on the Internet. I let this hap­pen, time and time again, in my house. I can no longer ap­ply any sort of moral rel­a­tiv­ity to the sit­u­a­tion. I never liked the movie Old Yeller, but if your dog goes ra­bid, you put it down your­self.

I have a whole host of other projects that I’d like to work on, the most im­por­tant be­ing Abraham. With the weight of Tremonter off my back, maybe I can ac­tu­ally get the chance to work on one or two more.

Refinancing… or Not

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

A month or so ago I stopped into the down­town Fifth Third to in­quire about the pos­si­bil­ity of re­fi­nanc­ing my mort­gage. Now that rates have dropped I fig­ured it was a good time to test the wa­ters. I was told that I’d have to pay into the mort­gage a bit more be­fore I was el­i­gi­ble, but that I’d get a call when it was time. A few weeks later I get a call from a Fifth Third branch of­fice about com­ing in to re­fi­nance my mort­gage. The per­son who called me proved im­pos­si­ble to meet with. We played phone tag for a bit, and when I fi­nally sched­uled an ap­point­ment, I showed up to dis­cover that she’d just sat down with some­one else, and could I please come back in an hour or so.

I ended up sched­ul­ing an ap­point­ment with a fel­low down­town and met with him the other day to fi­nally talk about re­fi­nanc­ing. Turns out it is a $350 ap­pli­ca­tion fee crap shoot. With the way hous­ing prices have tum­bled in Cleveland, it could cost me sev­eral thou­sand dol­lars, up front, to re­fi­nance. My house could be worth 20% less than what I paid for it. Zillow es­ti­mates that my house is worth $7k less than what I paid for it, which would mean I would need to pay 5 or 6 grand to re­fi­nance to a lower rate.

The up­side to this is that it will take me a bit to save up that kind of cash, and in that time, rates might fall even fur­ther. The new mort­gage will likely have mort­gage in­sur­ance though, so fig­ur­ing out how much money I’m re­ally go­ing to save in the long run is go­ing to be quite com­pli­cated.

Punishment

Monday, 8 December 2008

Since I haven’t up­dated this site in over a month, I’m pun­ish­ing my­self [and you as well] by forc­ing my­self to re­design. Again. Only the twist this time is that I’m not do­ing it be­hind the sce­nes, but, bit by bit, while try­ing to make the site re­main read­able as I go.

Playing with a baby is much, much more fun than keep­ing a web­site up­dated.