Sunday, September 28, 2008

Huge Progress In The Recovery Plan for New Orleans: Red Dots to Orange

I, like the majority of my neighbors, was very involved in the recovery process of my neighborhood after Hurricane Katrina. We came up with a fantastic citizen driven plan. We worked very hard. I went to so many meetings, well over 200, and was frustrated by the many times that the meetings were a charade. They were designed to say that people in the neighborhood had input, but in the end it was clear there was no real opinion being sought. I came to detest Concordia who made quite a bit of money running these. My biggest frustration came when the input involved putting colored dots on where you live. This happened in 2006 when I was asked to put red dots on my neighborhood at the "Unified" New Orleans Plan. Here were the red dots in my hood:
There have been about 200 official plans since then, the latest being last weekend. This is supposed to be the real super-unified really really this time it's true plan. I skipped it. Mostly it's because I'm so busy working on finishing our house. But it was healthy not to be there. So much money could be spent on rebuilding houses, and instead it all goes to the "planners" who I wouldn't trust to plan my son's upcoming 8th birthday party. Apparently the biggest change this time around is that the dots have evolved from red to orange, as you can see in this picture from Karen Apricot forwarded to me by Karen Gadbois.
Do you see that? The dots were red, and now they're FREAKIN' ORANGE! Way to go planners. I'd like to see some more research on how many people in my neighborhood are fans of the fleur-de-lis. Maybe people opposed to the fleur de lis put the dots in the wrong place.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Sucker Punched List by Our General Contractor

Last Fall we had hired a general contractor through a contract administrator. Though it was a painful process, construction on our home at last proceeded to the final punch list in August. We had several problems with the general contractor throughout the process. But when he got the punch list of things left to do, he bailed. That was on August 29th, the third anniversary of Katrina. The contractor, Douglas Marshall Blow of Webco Gulf Coast Construction, said he was picking up his tools because Gustave was on its way, but looking back it was clear that he had no plans to return. Then when the power was out after Gustave, he texted me and said I'd soon be hearing from subcontractors because he hadn't paid them, and the contractor said he would not do the punch list. Turns out the money I had been paying to him lately was going to purposes other than paying the subcontractors. So essentially as part of our contract, if he had honored it, meant that we owed him $18K. The subcontractors who we've heard from are owed about $18K. So essentially, he gets to walk away from our contract with very little penalty as far as I can see, and while we have to pay the $18K, there is much on our house that is not finished. Moreover, many things were poorly constructed and installed, so for today example we had to pay a roofer to fix the roof vents that were never attached properly. We decided we probably didn't want a leaky roof after all. Because our contractor breached the contract, we have little recourse down the road if things go wrong.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Recruiting Lara Croft for ASOR Board

I've been a member of the American Schools of Oriental Research for many years, and recently I've been an officer. Basically ASOR is a professional organization that focusses on the archaeology and history of the Near East, especially the ancient Near East. One of our main competitors is the Archaeological Institute of America. They've been feeling pretty good about themselves, as Indiana Jones, Mr Harrison Ford, has joined their board. That's cool, but it also makes me jealous. So we at ASOR need some celebrity bling. We could try Indiana Jones' dad, Sean Connery. That would get my friend Sue more involved. Or we could try Indie's kid, but he gives me the creeps. I'm thinking the person who I would most like to look at during boring board meetings would be Lara Croft, Angelina Jolie. I would of course insist that she wear the tomb raider wetsuit at the board meetings. Angelina, I know we're neighbors, but I don't know how to get in touch with you. Please join the ASOR board. Brad's welcome too, but my personal preference would be for you to leave him at home.
Lara Croft
Future ASOR board member, Angelina Jolie

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

2 Hurricanes & A Semester's Rough Start

Here at Xavier University, it's halfway through week four. However, I have one class that only meets on Friday, and we have not yet met. We missed the first two Fridays because of Gustav, and then we missed last Friday because of Ike. Moreover, this Friday I'll be en route to Boston for an American Schools of Oriental Research meeting, so the Friday of week 5 will be our first class. I've tried to keep things moving along pedagogically with technology, but when Gustav was approaching Xavier moved its website, blackboard, and email to a remote host in some faraway place known as Denver. Now they've moved everything back except the email, but there have been many glitches. I wonder if this is something that I can expect for the rest of my life every September, when the hurricane season is most active? It's tiring.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Houston & Ike

My thoughts and prayers are with Houston and residents on the Gulf Coast as Hurricane Ike slowly heads towards Texas. This appears to be a very large storm. It's been windy here all day as feeder bands pass overhead. Also, I had to cancel my dirt order as it is supposed to rain this weekend quite a bit, also from Ike. Be well Houstonians and dwellers in lowland areas.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

More Dirt Than I Needed

I just bought 8 cubic yards of topsoil. I only needed 6 but the minimum they deliver is 8. It's supposed to be delivered on Friday. Then Saturday, we landscape and get some sod to put on top of it. Good fun.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Booing Hurricane Ike

Today I watched the New Orleans Saints defeat their division rival Tampa Bay in a very hard fought and close game. That was great, and it is a much needed bright spot in an area that has been put through the ringer. The lowlight was hearing the local nice guys and Disney Channel stars the Imagination Movers sing the national anthem. Might as well have been Barney for all I care. But the highlight of the game for me was when they had a local weatherman, Bob Breck, on the big screen talk about the possible danger we face from Hurricane Ike. They showed the storm model of Ike entering the Gulf, and the entire stadium of 70,000 plus booed very loudly. At that very moment, the storm models showed Ike taking a turn to the west of our area. Take that sorry game somewhere else Ike.

A "Back to Normal" Sunday

I have to say that the third year anniversary of Katrina involved a very stressful week. With Therese and the kids evacuating, getting ready for Gustav, riding it out, and then getting things back in order for school tomorrow, all of that has been taxing. We recently got our electricity restored, and we also have internet access. Those are very good things, especially now that I can work and think in an air conditioned environment. We'll be living out of boxes for some time I imagine, and that is fine. We cleaned up and painted our old 2 bedroom apartment on Hennessey, and now we're looking for some tenants. Things have also been very stressful with getting ready for the upcoming annual meeting of the American Schools of Oriental Research, as a key component of the organizational team recently resigned. Friday I also got some phone calls from contractors and lumber yards who say they are going to put a lien on our house because our contractor bought things on credit and now our contractor claims he is broke. So it seems our contractor owes various entities about $13,000, and we have about $18,000 in retainage to motivate him to finish the job. The big question is will he finish it for the remaining $5,000 or just walk away. So we spent Friday and Saturday doing our own contractor work to make the house more livable, including cleaning up the construction debris in the yard, painting the closets, fixing the hot water heater, and caulking the bathrooms. Today I'm going with Howie to the Superdome to see the Saints play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Then tomorrow I'll have much catching up to do with regards to work and professional obligations.

And I know all about Hurricane Ike soon to enter the gulf.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

waiting for juice

therese and kids made it back yesterday. Everyone is fine. No power and no Internet. Hopefully tomorrow. School supposed to start Monday

Monday, September 01, 2008

snow days

city officials keep saying hurricane evacuations are like snow days. This is baloney. Let the people come home immediately if you want them to evacuate again.

Halfway Through Gustav

We lost power in my house at 4AM, and my AT&T iphone lost service just a few minutes ago. So if you're calling or texting I'm not ignoring you. But overall it's my impression that New Orleans is doing quite well. Only a few small branches down on my street, and no flood waters here at all. I'm not sure how Terrebonne Parish fared, as that is where the eye was supposed to have hit about an hour ago, but I hope everyone down there is OK. Cox Cable internet/cable and a Troy-Bilt generator are thus far allowing me to keep tabs on events. We still have water and gas. My dog Mosey is stressed out, but Oot the sugar glider and Morgus the parrot seem calm. I'm now going to try to find a cigar and then I'll smoke it in the house. Therese would never let me do that if she were here.