Thursday, July 28, 2011

Remodeling Update -- The Neverending Story

This is taking much longer than anticipated.

As a reminder, I’m remodeling (gutting) three small bathrooms, tearing out two closets in the basement, and painting nearly the entire place (except for one bedroom that was already painted), including ceilings and moldings. I hired a main contractor who specializes in bathrooms and kitchens, and he outsourced the painting to a company he normally uses for painting. His time estimate was four weeks for the whole shebang. At the time, that sounded extremely aggressive to me, but I figured he knew better than I did how long this would take.

So, we are at the end of week five. He’s done a lot of the work in parallel (i.e., two bathrooms at once, all electrical at once, bathroom fans at once, the basement tearing out the closets, etc.), which I thought would be great, but has left me with…two bathrooms that are almost done, a section in the basement where the closets were taken out and the new electrical is in, but the ceiling still needs to be put in, and my master bedroom painted. I’m told that the two bathrooms will both be done by the end of the week, because all they need is the plumber to put in the faucets at this point. Next week they will start demo on bathroom number three. I anticipate the painting will be done by end of next week also.

I don’t so much mind that things have gone over, because the work on the bathrooms is phenomenal. The tile work is perfect, everything looks great, and they haven’t run into any problems at all. (I’m shocked, shocked at this!) I’m also very happy with everything I picked, which is a huge relief. It’s just taken longer than he thought, for whatever reason. Fine, it happens, I’m in no big rush anyway.

The painting started this week, and that is where problems have arisen. When I initially met with the painter, he told me they use Benjamin Moore paints, and that all I had to do was pick out the color and finish and whatnot. He said nothing about paint grade or asked me my preference. When I got the quote, I (wrongly) assumed that it did not include the cost of the paint, and that I could pick whatever Benjamin Moore grade of paint I wanted. I very carefully wrote down the paint colors I wanted in each of the rooms and where (I’m doing some accent walls) and wrote down “Use Regal or Aura Paint” and underlined it. Regal and Aura are the higher end paints, and thus more expensive. I didn’t have a preference between the two, and some painters do, so I left it open for them to decide which one to use. I left this paper on the counter, and they took it with them last week.

On Tuesday they painted the bathrooms and used Regal, so it didn’t even occur to me that there were any issues. However, last night I got home and they had painted my master bedroom. First off, they used my basement wall accent color (La Paloma Gray) on the accent wall in the bedroom. I noticed this right away, and also noticed there were two gallons of the right accent wall color (Plymouth Rock) in the entry to the kitchen. Plymouth Rock is also being used on the accent wall on the main floor…but it doesn’t seem to me they will need two gallons to do that job, and had mistakenly used the basement gallon of La Paloma Gray in the bedroom. Now, the bedroom actually looks fine with La Paloma Gray as the accent (the other walls are Revere Pewter), so I don’t mind, but now there is a ton of Plymouth Rock and I really want La Paloma Gray in the basement. Someone’s going to have some extra paint.

The bigger issue is that they are using Benjamin Moore Super Spec, not Regal or Aura. They have also already mixed a huge freaking vat of the main wall color (Classic Gray) in Super Spec, as well as the two cans of Plymouth Rock, and painted the bedroom in Super Spec. I don’t mind so much that the bedroom is in that grade of paint (or even the accent walls, for that matter), but for the high traffic main floor, up the stairs, hallway upstairs, and basement, I really wanted a higher end paint that is washable and nice. Which is exactly why I wrote on the piece of paper with the paint colors to “Use Regal or Aura Paint” and underlined it.

I confronted the painters this morning, neither of whom spoke very good English, and pointed out the above problems. (I also expressly pointed out again where the Plymouth Rock, Classic Gray, and La Paloma Gray should go. I’m still expecting a cluster fuck of mistakes there.) He called his boss, who I also talked to, and explained the situation. (And pointed out that I had told them what grade I wanted when I gave them the colors. I’m not sure why everyone seems so surprised that I don’t want the cheapass builder grade Super Spec paint.)

I then called my main contractor to explain the situation, and he asked if I had told the painter the grade when getting the quote. I said no, because I frankly didn’t even know about all these paint grades when I got the quote, and like I said, assumed that the paint cost was separate anyway. I also told him that the painter hadn’t said anything about paint grades or asked me what I wanted. I’ll admit that I’m new to the world of getting a painter, but if the grade of paint was important to the quote, shouldn’t he have asked me? The quote says nothing about paint grades. (In comparison, the contractor’s bathroom quote specifies that it is for laying ceramic tile, and stone will cost more, etc.) In fact, the painter said very little when he came by to look at the place and give me my quote. During this call, my main contractor told me that the quote included the paint cost. Color me shocked. That seems incredibly bizarre to me, because the quote doesn’t say that at all, and he never even mentioned the grade. Why would he assume I wanted the cheapo Super Spec?

Given all of that, I’m not surprised the quote is for the cheapest paint. But I find it baffling that he wouldn’t call me up to clarify and/or tell me the extra cost when I expressly stated that I wanted Regal or Aura when I supplied the paint colors. And why use Regal in the bathrooms? Now, he’s plowed forward and gotten a ton of paint mixed in Super Spec that I don’t want. I don’t know who is going to pay for that screw up, but it won’t be me.

So, I’m rather annoyed with the painters. My main contractor said he was on his way over there when I spoke to him this morning, and I haven’t heard anything back from him yet. I don’t mind paying the difference from the quote for the upgraded paint cost, but it’s unbelievable to me that they wouldn’t call me up and clarify if they were confused, before even mixing the paint. Why would I write “Use Regal or Aura Paint” if I was happy with Super Spec? The whole thing is baffling to me. When the bathroom guys were working, they constantly called me to clarify what I wanted and how I wanted it. Why didn’t the painters do the same? In hindsight, I should’ve probably hired painters separately, but it seemed so much easier to just work through the same person.

I’m sure this will work itself out one way or another, but I am so tired of dealing with construction right now. I can’t wait until this is over. Of course, then I have to deal with the carpet installers.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Is the Economy Really That Bad?

From an observer's viewpoint, ignoring what the newspapers say, it's hard to believe that the state of the economy is as bad as is being reported.  Let's take this past week as an example:

On Wednesday evening after work I went over to Nordstrom Rack on State Street to browse.  I found a couple of Calvin Klein work dresses on sale, so I decided to buy them and went over to the register.  There were fourteen people in line to pay for purchases.  (Yes, I counted because I couldn't believe how long the line was.) 

On Friday night, I went out for drinks in the Old Town neighborhood.  At around eleven o'clock, Wells Street was covered with people waiting in line to get into bars like Benchmark and Fireside Inn.  The other bars along that strip (roughly from Goethe up to just north of North Avenue) were jammed with people buying drinks and food. 

On Saturday afternoon, I went over to the Bucktown/Wicker Park area around Milwaukee/North/Damen to do a little shopping.  Again, the sidewalks were jammed with people, and there were loads of people in every store I went into, many of whom were buying things. 

On Saturday night, I went out in Wrigleyville (don't ask), and much like the night before in Old Town, Clark Street was jammed with people waiting in line to get into John Barleycorn's, and the other bars along there weren't doing so bad either, with people buying drinks and food.  Wrigleyville on a Saturday night in the summer is usually packed like this, to the point where there are people walking in the street because there is no room on the sidewalk.

And then today I see this article:
Illinois' 10th casino opened in Des Plaines today after years of legal and regulatory fights over its gambling license -- and the result was so successful that casino operators would like people to stay away ... at least for now.

When asked for a reaction to a turnout that clogged roads today in and around the facility, a Rivers Casino repesentative wrote this in an e-mail:
"Due to the tremendous interest this afternoon in our grand opening, our casino and entertainment complex is at capacity. We would ask our guests to consider delaying their visit. Please call back later (888-307-0777) or check for updates."

So, I have to wonder...with all of these people out and about shopping, eating out, patronizing the bars, and going to the casinos, are things really as bad as the media makes them appear?    

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Hollywood Applauds Them, Them Drops Them: Nikki Blonsky is Selling Shoes

Remember back in 2007 when Hairspray came out, and Nikki Blonsky was everywhere? Hairspray was her first movie role, and she played the role of Tracy Turnblad (which I personally will always associate with Ricki Lake, but anywhoo…) Prior to that, Nikki had been scooping ice cream. She erupted on the scene and made quite a splash. There was a lot of talk back then about how talented she was, the next rising star, and how Hollywood might finally be looking past weight. She was everywhere -- red carpets, movie premieres, interviews, in magazines. I only remember this so clearly because the overexposure was excessive, and at the time I thought…

There’s not a chance in hell that she would have any sort of long term career in acting.

I’m not saying that to be a jerk, either. It’s just true. Hairspray was the perfect role for her because it required a bigger gal. There aren’t many roles like that in Hollywood for women. Even in roles where an overweight person could be cast (i.e., the ubiquitous “wisecracking friend”), they rarely are. There aren’t many actresses who are morbidly obese who are successful. (I mean, think about it. And Blonsky goes well beyond slightly overweight.) But every few years it seems that some actress gets her big break in a role written expressly for an obese person (as opposed to a role that could be played by a person of any weight), and for a few months everyone in Hollywood pats themselves on the back and talks about how wonderful it is that we can all look past appearances and what huge strides Hollywood is making and how this actress is going to have a long, successful career. (See also, Gabourey Sidibe in Precious.)


So, what is this rising star, Nikki Blonsky, doing now? Apparently working at a shoe store. She had a few jobs after Hairspray, consisting mostly of television work. What happened to all the bigwigs in Hollywood who were applauding her performance and talking about what a wonderful actress she was? They all disappeared, apparently, without offering her a job. And now, at the age of 22, her acting career may be over, for all intents and purposes. Sure, we may see her here and there on television or in other smaller roles, but the fact remains that there is very little work in Hollywood for obese women.

The question is, how long until Gabourey Sidibe is also selling shoes or working a cash register somewhere? Since Precious in 2009, she’s had a recurring role on The Big C (where she plays an obese, crabby high school student), and according to IMDB has been in two movies, neither of which I’ve heard of. Although Gabourey seems very sweet and pleasant, I fear she will ultimately go the way of Nikki Blonsky and be forgotten by the very people who seemed so proud to see her succeed.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Casey Anthony Jurors Got It Right

I’m upset about the lashing the Casey Anthony jurors are getting in the media. As seems to be typical of our society these days, anyone who reaches a different conclusion than what has been pounded down our throats by the likes of Nancy Grace must be stupid, uneducated, conspiring for money, or unable to understand the evidence. Somehow I suspect if the jury had come back with a guilty verdict after eleven hours, everyone would be complimenting them and celebrating, rather than jumping to the conclusion that a conspiracy occurred behind closed doors.

This is the same media who declared Casey Anthony guilty three years ago and has vilified her ever since. Unfortunately, in this country people aren’t tried by the media. Nancy Grace has now moved on to criticizing the jurors and discussing their DUIs and lack of a high school diploma. You’d think as a former prosecutor she would know better. Twelve people arrived at this conclusion, not two or three. This case has always made me feel uncomfortable, with the open discovery laws in Florida, and the media pouring over every document, deposition, e-mail, phone call, and photograph. It didn’t seem right that so many people should be privy to so many details prior to a public trial. Ironically, because of the wall to wall coverage of the case, Casey Anthony will likely be able to make some money on book deals and interviews once the dust settles. If the media hadn’t put so much focus on this case, that would have never happened, and she wouldn’t be in this position. They only have themselves to blame.

To Nancy Grace I say this: I have well beyond a high school diploma and no DUIs, and I think the jurors got it right, based on the evidence that was presented and the charges that were brought. The comparisons to the O.J. Simpson case are apt – the prosecution didn’t prove their case there either. Here, they overreached on the charges and hoped emotion and the horror of a child dying would carry the day. The State’s case was weak, and its attorneys were smug. Smugness and laughter at the other side never wins over a jury.

While circumstantial evidence and inferences are allowed, at the end of the day to arrive at a guilty verdict on the substantial charges required too much speculation. Too many dots had to be connected with no evidence in support other than that Casey Anthony partied in the days after her daughter’s disappearance. The State should have to show more than that to put someone in prison for life. What hurt the State’s case the most is that they did not know the cause of Caylee’s death and there was very little evidence pointing to Casey murdering Caylee (as opposed to someone else, say George, Cindy, or Lee). Iffy chloroform, iffy duct tape, iffy stain in a trunk, iffy Internet searches, and bad behavior. It’s a leap to go from an Internet search on chloroform to murdering your two year old child. And if a jury isn’t sure that a murder occurred (as opposed to an accident of some kind), there’s no way they can conclude that Casey caused the murder. The charges were simply too much for what was proved at trial. In the end, they had nothing tying Casey to Caylee’s death, and the circumstantial evidence simply didn’t add up to enough.

The cries that justice has not been served seem to stem from the idea that someone should be punished for Caylee’s death, and through process of elimination, that person should be Casey. After all, she is the only one the media has focused on for the past three years. But what if it was an accident? That idea has always gnawed at me in this case. Just because she reacted in a way people view as inappropriate does not mean she intentionally (or otherwise) murdered her daughter. In fact, the testimony about her mothering skills seemed to indicate that she was nothing but loving toward Caylee.

I don’t fault the jurors. They sat there for six weeks and heard the evidence, and were sheltered from the shrilling media screaming “off with her head!” I don’t fault them for quickly arriving at a verdict. For all we know, they took one vote and everyone felt that Casey was not guilty. That doesn’t mean they are stupid, didn’t pay attention, or didn’t understand the evidence. The fact is, the case was weak, yet very few people want to acknowledge that.

I do believe that Casey knows exactly what happened to Caylee, but don’t blame the jurors. Blame the prosecution – they didn’t do their job.