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Poor general contractor: Design Build 4U Chicago

June 10, 2014 Leave a comment

I have been going though a renovation project for the past 1.5 years in Chicago IL.  The contractor, Design Build 4U Chicago, has been an absolute nightmare.  More details to come on that.

If you find this page looking for details on the following, please add yourself to this google group.

Contractor: Design Build 4U Chicago
Trade License Number: TGC028355
Owner: John Hochbaum
Vice President: Stephen M. Probst (Stephen Probst; Steve Probst)

John P. Hochbaum Jr.

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Stephen Probst

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Bridget Butler; Property Manager at Kass Management

May 28, 2012 1 comment

I usually don’t rant about things like this on my Blog, but after my most recent Condominium Board meeting, I feel the need to warn other buildings of the advice they may receive from their Building Managers.  I own a condo in a building managed by Kass Management.  Our Property Manager, Bridget Butler, is one of the most ignorant people I have ever met.  I have caught her falsifying information multiple times. Here are a few examples:

  • There are fire doors in our hallway that are not able to close automatically due to the high carpet.  I notified Bridget of the issue and got no response.  I finally convinced the condo board to press the matter.  Bridget Butler came to the next board meeting and reported that she had talked to an Inspector, and that the inspector said “due to the building’s design, fire doors were not necessarily.” This was is in the board meeting minutes, approved by our board.  Since no inspector visited the building, I filed a 311 complaint. According to the city website, we now have building violations against our building for the exact problem I asked Bridget to get fixed.  Minutes prior to the next board meeting I checked and the doors were not fixed.  At the meeting, Bridget Butler said that our violations were closed.  How can they be closed when the problem mentioned in the violations are not fixed?? This is fully documented and I may seek legal action.
  • I was trying to get our board to approve a cost reduction project to insulate our hot water tanks.  Bridget Butler claimed our tanks were “not designed to be insulated” and “they are only warm to the touch.”  The manufacturer sells prefabricated insulation cabinets.  I measured the surface area of the tanks at 126, and 127 degrees with an infrared thermometer; that is hot enough to cause 3rd degree burns.
  • Bridget Butler states that Certificates of Operation for elevators , or copies of, do not have to be placed within the elevator.  State laws say otherwise.  After one year of asking for the certificate of operation to be placed in the elevator, nothing was being done. I finally called the city of Chicago and found out our elevator had not been inspected since 2007.  Isn’t it the management companies responsibility to get that done?  I also blame my condo board for not pressing the matter, but it is not ultimately their responsibility.

The biggest problem with this situation is that our Condominium Board tends to trust Bridget Butler because she is in a position of authority.  In that manner, Bridget’s ignorance is transferred to our Condo Board; safety issues tend to get dismissed until fines by the city of Chicago are threatened.  It should not have to get that far.

I admit I am not the most politically skilled individual.  That is my biggest weakness by far.  But that doesn’t mean I don’t do the research to find the facts and get things done the right way, every time.

With that said, in conjunction with Bridget’s authoritative position, my week political skills are likely why my Condo Board sides on Bridget’s advice rather than my own.  However, when it comes to safety, there is no room for politics, and I astonished that Bridget Butler has gotten this far with her career given her extreme ignorance.  I decided to post this to warn other condominium associations to be wary of Bridget’s advice.

</End Rant>

QR Codes On Your Business Card

May 27, 2011 1 comment

QR Codes have become tremendously popular over the last few months.  Most companies use QR codes as a way to direct users to websites.  Users can scan a code with their mobile phone, and the phone directs the user to the marketer’s webpage.  The process saves the user time by eliminating the need for the user to type the web address into their phone.

QR Codes are two-dimensional machine readable images.  Much like normal barcodes, such as UPC codes, but with a much higher density of information, and significant redundancy/error correction.  Any simple text can be encoded in a QR Code and then read by a machine using a scanner or camera.

When I was doing some research on QR Codes I found they can be used for other purposes such as encoding VCARDs. VCARD files are simple contact or address book files saved as plain text.  Most address book applications can save and open VCARD files with ease.  Many QR scanner applications recognize QR codes with VCARDs as the encoded text.

So, when I was designing my most recent personal business card I though it would be a neat idea to include a QR encoded VCARD on them.

The first step was getting a VCARD.  Unfortunately this was not an easy task. Although there is a standard for VCARDs, most software applications interpret the standard differently, especially as related to the phone number.  It is worth mentioning that if too much information is in the VCARD text, the QR Code will get denser, and thus harder for phones to read.  Through some trial and error, I ended up with this VCARD:

BEGIN:VCARD
N;LANGUAGE=en-us:Hayes;Ed
EMAIL;INTERNET:ed@edhayes.us
TEL;CELL:440-263-4420
URL:http://www.edhayes.us
ADR:;;;CHICAGO;IL;;
END:VCARD

Any decent QR encoding software should be able to encode this.  I used the one available at http://invx.com/code.  Make sure the encoder encodes the text as the QR code, rather than encoding a URL that directs the user to a page displaying the text.

Finally I placed the encoded QR code image on my business card.   Now, when I give my card to someone, they can scan it with their phone, and my contact gets added to their address book.  Not only does this ensure that there are no typos, it’s much easier for the user to enter my contact information by scanning an image rather than typing on a tiny keyboard.

Fixed: Parted Magic 6.0 USB Boot Error

My neighbor is having computer problems so I am preparing to clone his hard drive to an external disk.  I realized my version of Parted Magic is quite old, so it was time to upgrade my USB flash drive to the new version.  After downloading the new ISO from partedmagic.com and the  UNetbootin program from unetbootin.sourceforge.net as the documentation for Parted Magic instructed.  After following the directions and making my bootable USB flash drive, I got an error.  I tried searching the internet and couldn’t find a easy solution.  I finally figured out what was wrong:

Conditions

A Windows XP Professional machine creating a Parted Magic USB Boot drive.

Symptoms

Booting from the Parted Magic 6.0 USB drive, the following error is displayed:

SYSLINUX 3.85 2010-02-20 EBIOS Copyright (C) 1994-2010 H. Peter Anvin et al
No DEFAULT or UI configuration directive found!
boot:

Solution

It turns out the non-zipped ISO is corrupt.  Use the UNetbootin program to download the iso image or download the ISO zip file from Parted Magic’s website.

Support of Lakeview Wal-Mart Convenient Store Concept

March 21, 2011 3 comments

I wrote the following letter to my Alderman  Tom Tunney today.

Mr. Tunney,

My name is Ed Hayes, and I am a constituent of yours.  As a fellow member of the LGBT community, I appreciate your support of all LGBT issues.  I am also a frequent customer of your Ann Sather restaurants which I am proud to have in Lakeview.

With that said, I live at 519 W Melrose and fully support Wal-Mart entering Lakeview with its new convenient store concept.

Lakeview has had a grocery store deficit for many years since the Dominic’s burned down in 2005.  With the project to rebuild Dominic’s apparently dead, I see no reason prevent Wal-Mart from entering the area. Especially if they are planning a convenient store which does not require a parking lot.  The Lakeview long term plan designates Broadway as being a pedestrian street.  A Convenient store like Wal-Mart would conform to that more than the previously planned Dominic’s with parking lot, and more than the Trader Joe’s currently being constructed with a parking garage.

None of the products sold by local small businesses/boutiques would be in competition with Wal-Mart’s convenient store concept.  The only competition to Wal-Mart’s store are the current grocery store offerings.  The current grocery stores closest to the planned Wal-Mart lcoation (Dominic’s, Jewel, Whole Foods, Treasure Island, and Market Place) have prices much higher than Wal-Mart’s expected prices. If/when Wal-Mart enters the market, consumers will pay less on their every day groceries, giving them more buying power for local restaurants and boutiques.  That means Wal-Mart would actually help local businesses.  Furthermore, Wal-Mart would increase foot traffic along Broadway and Clark; foot traffic that could only help other local businesses.  And as I mentioned before, is already part of the long term Lakeview plan.

Accusing Wal-Mart of having poor labor relations is completely unfair.  Wal-Mart has arguably better labor relations than many other local grocers and businesses.  If Wal-Mart’s labor relations are as bad as people claim they are, nobody will want to work there, and the store will never open.  Never the less, the unemployment rate in Chicago is quite high, and adding potential jobs is important to everybody in the city.  I don’t see any point on blocking any employer from creating much needed jobs.

The recent news to rezone the storefront which Wal-Mart plans to lease is outrageous.  I am fairly certain that many other retailers on the same corner as the potential Wal-Mart have just as large of a footprint as Wal-Mart plans to have, if not larger! I don’t know their exact square footages, but Borders, TJ Maxx, World Market, and Bed Bath and Beyond are all quite large.

Trader Joe’s is coming soon; why are they getting any special treatment?  They are just as much a national chain and arguably more specialized than Wal-Mart. Trader Joe’s will provide more of a threat to local businesses than Wal-Mart ever will. If the goal is to save local businesses, why was Trader Joe’s allowed to build a store?

The building Wal-Mart plans to occupy currently has three empty storefronts.  Borders is about to provide another open storefront very close by.  And, there are countless smaller storefronts in the neighborhood which are also empty.  If a company like Wal-Mart is planning to improve and occupy two of those empty storefronts, it is preposterous to block them.

The only argument I would agree with against Wal-Mart is that it is a national chain, and our neighborhood would be better off with local small businesses.  But if National chains are so bad, why are so many other National chains already allowed to be in the area?  Walgreens, CVS, Panera, Starbucks, Hair Cuttery, Best Buy, Chipotle, TJ Maxx; I could go on and on.  Any argument against Wal-Mart must also be applied to other retailer.

If the argument was against a Applebee’s, I would be in complete agreement with you.  However, this argument is over a store which sells the same exact products as Dominic’s, Jewel, and Treasure Island.  However, Wal-Mart has a superior supply chain which allows them to sell their goods at drastically lower prices.  Personally, I prefer to pay as little as possible for commodities such groceries.  Milk or flour is the same no matter where it is purchased.  Why pay more just because a store is “local”.  A “local” grocer that sells flour provides no benefit over a national flour retailer.  When it comes to restaurants and clothing, I am willing to pay more for unique and higher quality offerings offered by local businesses.

Please reconsider your decision to attempt to block Wal-Mart from entering our community.  I would gladly discuss this with you further if given the chance.

Regards,
Ed Hayes

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Hot Water Tank Insulation Proposal

January 27, 2011 Leave a comment

Below is a proposal I wrote to my Condominium Association Board and Members January 27th 2011.


Board and fellow condominium association members,

The following is a proposal for insulating our building’s hot water tanks.

Summary

Insulating the two hot water storage tanks and pipes will cost $3,200, provide more than $1,371 annual energy savings, and provide an annual return on investment of more than 43% (less than 2.33 year payback period).  I urge the Board and fellow condominium association members to support this investment; it is rare to find an annual ROI of more than 43%.

Assumptions

  • Two AO Smith T-200 water tanks. (Confirmed)
  • Boiler requires well ventilated room .
    • Ventilation required to constitute combustion in water heater.
    • Exposure to external temperatures year round. (See Footnote 1)
  • Gas Prices from Peoples Gas website (See Footnote 2)
  • Pipe insulation was included in the cost, but not in energy savings.
  • Hot water temperature is 130° F (Temperature measured at faucet)
  • R Value of insulation is 10.00
  • R Value of tank wall is 0.60

Estimate

Calculations
Water Tank Insulation Proposal


Footnotes

  1. Temperature data: http://www.weather.com/weather/wxclimatology/monthly/graph/USIL0225
  2. I made a request to the Board for a copy of the utility bills on August 23rd 2010.  I did not receive a response, therefore, I used cost data based from the Peoples Gas website: http://www.peoplesgasdelivery.com/business/gas_rates.aspx#availableRates

Open Letter: Chicago Bagel Authority (CBA)

January 17, 2011 4 comments

I first came to the Chicago Bagel Authority (CBA) because of a Groupon.  I loved the place!  The food was great, and the staff was friendly.  I was left with an extremely positive perception of the CBA.

Saturday, I returned with a few friends of mine.  I was excited to show them what the CBA was all about.  Although, when I tried to use the second and last Groupon I had purchased, I was unable to use it. I was told I could not use a Groupon on the weekend. Concerned, I looked at the terms and conditions of the Groupon and could not find wording which indicated the Groupon could not be used on the weekend, or wording that would allow the terms to be changed post-purchase.

I asked to speak to a manager and was told he was not in. I then asked to speak to the manager-on-duty; I was told there was not one and that every employee was a manager of the co-op.

My positive perception of the CBA quickly changed.  The customer behind me in line also came to use his Groupon.  He decided to leave; not paying for the food he had ordered.  Trying not to ruin my fiends experience I decided to stay and paid cash.

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