Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Sarah Taylor made my day

My old landlord made the headlines again yesterday in this front page article in the Ann Arbor News. Basically, Dale Newman's houses were declared uninhabitable because of his criminal fraudulence. The good news is, I will be getting my money back after all.

I know this because Sarah, whose photograph appears at the top of the article, received my writ for garnishment last week. When she figured out what it was, she figured the new owner of the property would be able to help me with my situation.

I'd like to paste the full text of the article here, since MLive is a decrepit system that will take it offline in 14 days or so.

Student apartment houses shut down by city
Posted by Staff Reporter David Gershman August 28, 2007 08:55AM

Ann Arbor officials have declared five apartment houses in predominantly student neighborhoods to be uninhabitable, forcing University of Michigan students like Sarah Taylor to look for new places to live just as the fall term is about to begin.

"It's horrible," said Taylor, 26, an out-of-state student entering a graduate program at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy. "It's move-in weekend. There's nothing available. I'm looking at some really dingy apartments around town.

"The reason I moved to Ann Arbor two months ago was exactly to avoid moving this weekend."

Late last week, city officials posted notices on the front doors of five houses - on Lawrence, State, Division and Brown streets - stating that all or a portion of them are uninhabitable because they lack electricity or natural gas, or both.

Three of the houses - 418 and 504 Lawrence St. and 419 N. State St. - are owned by John and Mary Schwartz of Williamston, Mich. The couple bought the houses from Dale Newman of Ann Arbor - two of them last September and the third in July. They agreed Newman would manage each property for a year.

The other two houses are also managed by Newman, a city official said.

On Friday, DTE Energy shut off electricity to two of Schwartz's houses and natural gas to all three because bills were unpaid. Crews also found utility meters had been tampered with, said Scott Simons, a DTE spokesman.

"They were disconnected for non-payment and/or unauthorized use, which means meter-tampering," Simons said. "You can tamper with a meter in a way that it doesn't register usage."

Simons said the amount owed is "significant." He said the name on the utility bills was transferred from Newman to Schwartz in July.

Schwartz said he didn't know there were outstanding bills until Friday, and is trying to get utility service restored quickly. He said he spoke to tenants who are staying with parents who live nearby. He said he will put up any tenant who needs a place to stay in a motel until the apartments can be reoccupied.

"I was not managing these (houses), but I will be," said Schwartz, who is a professor at Michigan State University and also owns rental property in East Lansing
.
Newman said he managed Schwartz's units. "Apparently I didn't do it very well," he said. He said he did not know why utilities were shut off.

"I don't know everything because it's impossible to micro-manage everything," he said. "I just hire people that I consider competent to do their jobs. When it gets down to problems, I have to deal with the problems, which is what I'm doing now."

Jayne Miller, the city's Community Services Area Administrator, said the other two posted houses that are not owned by the Schwartzes are on Brown Street and South Division Street. Newman also manages those houses, said Miller, who couldn't provide more information.

It's unclear how many tenants lived in the five houses. The houses have mailboxes for multiple people. So far, U-M officials in campus housing and student legal affairs are assisting three students, but they expect to hear from more.

"We're going to help the students find alternative housing," said Linda Hancock Green, director of communications and public relations at the U-M Division of Student Affairs. "The university has a limited number of emergency apartments, but at this point in time they're all full. So if these three students turn into 12 students we'll be looking for other places for them to stay."

Newman said many of the apartments are vacant this time of the year. Tenants are allowed to keep their belongings in the apartments, and can enter them, he said. But they cannot sleep in them, he said.

This was the second time DTE shut off the utilities to Schwartz's houses, Simons said. It also had happened in July, he said.

Taylor said electricity was restored quickly in July to the house at 418 Lawrence St., but natural gas wasn't restored to all of the apartments for about a week. While tenants in the house were waiting for the service, Taylor said, they took turns showering and cooking in one apartment that was vacant. Its door didn't lock, she said.

"It was a pretty huge inconvenience having to coordinate your schedule with a whole bunch of people, having a unit that didn't lock," said Taylor. "It wasn't very safe. Anybody could go in there at any time."

Taylor's basement apartment, which she shares with her boyfriend, costs $680 a month, including utilities.

Wow. It's one thing to be a shady landlord who skirts around security deposits; when you start crossing wires to steal electricity from the house next door and creating a slow gas leak, you reach a new low.

I also couldn't believe the report got ahold of Dale on the phone!

Sarah was as pissed as I am on the phone, and understandably so. She figured since she wasn't writing rent to Christine Dong anymore, my garnishment notice would do her no good. However she also knew that John Schwartz had been trying to make amends around town for people affected by Dale's gross incompetence. She gave me Mr. Schwartz's contact information. I called him and he said he was willing to pay us the amount originally owed (not the doubled amount) plus my court costs. I will gladly take this and be done.

So it sounds like the saga will be over, even though I had to rely on the good faith of two people and not the court system or the landlords for it to work out.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

UT Stats

Unreal Tournament has logged two sets of stats for me -- the 65-hour set from the first installation (which I once estimated to be less than 1/4 of all the matches I played). Then the second set from after I reinstalled the game this winter. Though we only have two data points to look at, they reveal some interesting trends.


Interesting things at first glance - the extrapolated score per hour and my time to live are almost exactly the same. However, directly comparing the two suggests a trend that I'm becoming a more defensive player. Why do I think this?



-Flag kills per match are up almost 50%. This is just preying on people who leave the base with my flag.

-Flag saves are also up 40% per match. This correlates strongly with killing the flag carrier.

-Score per hour is down 10%, while frags per hour remains almost exactly the same. This means fewer of my points come from flag captures.

-Kills are up 35% and captures are down 30% per game. If I'm capping I don't care about fragging, just escaping. More kills means more time in the home base.

-Drops are down 11%. I infer that when I do touch the flag, I'm better at capturing it now.

-Strikingly, my win-loss record has become terrible: 198-149 (57%) to 71-89 (44%). Again, these could be completely skewed by the servers I join (perhaps the stats-logging servers have higher pings where I lose more). I know that some of it is due to me switching to the losing side more often now; I seek out the challenges more often. Also, while there have been several 100-point games which never showed up on the stats servers, there may be just as many low-scoring games that haven't shown up that I didn't care to check for.

In conclusion, I'm becoming a more defensive player, but the W/L trend makes it seem like it's not working. On the other hand, I may be a more efficient player on offense; that is, when I do try to cap I'm more successful. Basically I just need UT3 to come out so I can stop overanalyzing this three-year-old game.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Updates

It's been a very busy week. Let's back up to Saturday the 11th. That's when Bryan and Jessie got married, and the whole day was wonderful. Food, weather, the ceremony itself, everything was excellent, everyone looked great; I don't think it could've gone better unless we were allowed to un-tuck our shirts. I got a little sweaty in the direct sun, but that was just me, and we soon moved to the shade under the tents. Pictures from my mom's and Danielle's cameras are here, and the word is spreading on how to add albums there. This was one of my favorites.


Then I returned to Ann Arbor for my last week of work, tying up loose ends on projects all week. The staff gave me a nice card with gift certificate to Border's. It would appear they genuinely liked working with me, and I'll be hard pressed to find a work environment as enjoyable as that one was.

Also last week I finished my work on the MMB video project. After spending about 15 hours in the fishbowl labs last week editing it, I discovered that iDVD needs almost 10 uninterrupted hours to encode all the video and audio for it. Unfortunately that project is now on the back burner until I find a friend with a mac who'll let me borrow it for a full day... or until I get a job and Danielle buys a macbook? That would be nice too.

Friday and Saturday I packed up all my stuff and moved out to Grand Rapids. I bought a desk in Ypsi on Saturday morning that I saw on Craigslist. It was $20 and gets the job done. I didn't think I had that much stuff, yet we still filled my car and an Astro van. It didn't take too long to unload, and I've mostly settled in. I still like the apartment very much.

Comcast internet here, of course, sucks. Web browsing is spotty and inconsistent, but games and bittorrent are blazing fast. This means it's frustrating enough to drive me crazy, but fast enough where it matters that I can't do anything about it. As soon as I get a job, we're getting DSL.

Off to the grocery store. Serious, mission-critical job hunting begins today too. Tomorrow I return to Kalamazoo for three doctors appointments and to claim my dresser. Apparently "in suitcases in the middle of the floor" is not an acceptable place to put my clothes.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Onward and upward

Signing off from Ann Arbor. It's been a blast.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Bioshock

Bioshock has gone gold. This is the first highly-anticipated game that I've been waiting to drop this fall (the others in no particular order: UT3, Crysis, Team Fortress 2, Portal, Half-Life 2 Episode 2, Spore, and maybe Gears of War).

It comes out on August 21st, which is of course the day I have three doctors appointments scheduled in Kalamazoo. Maybe I can pick it up on my way home as a reward for a hopefully clean bill of health.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Is this a joke?

Nothing says you are serious about crushing jihadists like putting a desert-camouflage license plate on a 15 mpg pickup truck in the Heartland.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

"Babushka?"

I made some serious headway into the MMB video project last night. The information sheet I'm working off has descriptions for every picture that include the formations, how they moved, the music playing, an explanation of the joke/reference if necessary, and even what the announcer was saying. They're so dense. It's too bad many of them breeze by in 3 seconds.

Mom and Tom are getting a new corgi this weekend. He's 1 year old, smaller and darker than Buggs and Levi (which just means he's normal-sized), and has been called Johnny by his previous owners. Johnny is not a good dog name. Ariel wants to call him Babushka, like the polish headscarf, which is just weird and too many syllables. Tom is pushing for Snuffy. I like Victor, but I get no say in this.

Busy weekend ahead: Returning home tomorrow to salvage our downtrodden family PC hard drive and claim my clothes for the upcoming wedding. Heading to Chicago on Saturday for Bryan's bachelor party.