Christmas Post-mortem

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

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

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

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.