Archive for February, 2007
“This house was one of the worst properties in the east side of Toledo and I’m going to take it to the best property,” Ernie Berry said.
Berry talks about the house he purchased last June as he stumbles around boards and scraps. He uses a cane because he doesn’t want his guide dog, Calypso, to step on a nail or a sharp piece of wood.
“When I’m by myself, I don’t mind if I fall down,” Berry said after catching his footing.
Berry, who was born blind, is fixing up the 5,000-square-foot pale yellow house on Oswald Street, which was built in 1896. He said it used to be a “crack house with
22 people living in it at one time.”
Berry has never let his blindness deter him from hard work. He has two degrees from UT, is working toward a master’s degree, was an intern in Washington, D.C., and has twice ran for political office.
“I was born blind and no one knows why,” the 22-year-old said. “The doctors never knew why. It’s just one of those things.”
In addition to not being able to see what he’s doing or where he’s going, Berry has to walk with a cane, the aftermath of a neurological attack when he was 16.
“I don’t see anything as being difficult for me,” he said. “I just have to do it. Giving up is not an option.”
The most difficult task while working on refurbishing the house was the demolition part, he said. It took nearly five months to clear the inside of the house. He said the work went faster because he did it himself.
“I wasn’t afraid of things falling on me because I couldn’t have seen them anyway,” Berry said. “If they hit me, they hit me.”
The house was in horrible shape when he bought it, he said.
“It was foul-smelling and there were condoms and crack paraphernalia everywhere,” he said.
Now, the house is gutted and the only things in it are spider webs draped around wooden beams and some scraps on the floor. It is dark and drafty, because the heat has not been installed yet.
Berry laughed as he recalled knocking down walls and clearing out the house, working well after the sun went down when the property would be dark inside. He remembers passing neighbors saying, “Hey Ernie, don’t you want a light on in there?” or, “It’s pretty dark in there.”
“What do I need a light for?” Berry said.
The house will be a twin-plex that will emulate an Old West End style home, Berry said.
“We’re not stopping just because of the weather,” Berry said. “We’re a month ahead of schedule, but no corners will be cut. It’s going to be a new home in an old building.”
Not busy enough
Berry said he bought the house because he “needed something else” to work on and he wasn’t busy enough.
The project, to which he estimates he has devoted at least 1,500 hours of labor since June, is a hobby, he said, and it won’t cut into the time he spends with other commitments during the week.
One of those commitments is chess. Berry began playing chess at age 5 and won the Northwest Ohio Regional Chess Championship in 1998.
“Everything in life, no matter what it is, is a chess game. You have to think ahead,” he said while relating his metaphor to the house. “I can see the finished project and if I can get to the checkmate ahead of schedule, I will.”
Along with chess, weight lifting has become an important hobby. After he suffered from spastic paraplegia neuropathy, which caused his legs to spasm and confined him to a wheelchair, he worked to rehabilitate himself and was able to walk again. He said he was encouraged to lift weights to strengthen his body, but he didn’t stop there. His motivation and competitive nature sent him to the National Bench Press Competition in Cleveland, where he placed fourth.
Berry also mentors neighborhood children, ages kindergarten through high school, teaching them to play chess and training them in weight lifting.
“I don’t want to sacrifice the time I spend with mentoring these kids every week,” Berry said. “I think one of the most important things is to be a role model to someone who looks up to you.”
Along with these hobbies, Berry works full time as the ADA coordinator for the City of Toledo, and is attending UT for his master’s degree in public administration.
“I love Toledo,” Berry said. “Toledo is my home. People haven’t said they’d entrust me with making governmental decision yet, but that doesn’t stop me from fixing up Toledo one house at a time.”
Berry credits his parents, Pete and Becky, for his perseverance in his life and his love for his hometown.
“We’re proud of our city and we’re going to try to take care of it,” Pete Berry said. He has given some advice to Ernie about the refurbishing of the house, but said it’s his son’s project. “The neighbors are all glad because it was an eyesore, but now they see progress.”
“There are always two outlooks on life,” Becky Berry said. “You have to find the good side and stay positive because the good seems to overtake. We live in this neighborhood and we want to keep it nice.” Becky Berry said she is proud of her son for all his accomplishments and for trying to make his neighborhood a better place to live.
Pete Berry added that when people ask him if he is proud of his son he says, ‘I’m not proud of him, I’m inspired by him.’”
With a supportive family behind him, Berry said, “There isn’t anything I can’t handle because I’ve proven to myself and others that I’m determined to do what I can for the city given my current situation.
“I think to myself that even though people think it [the house] is, physically, too much for me, I have that motivation and it feels good going to sleep after a hard day’s work.”
Detective Keith Dressel died doing a job he loved, colleagues and family members say.
“He’s an exceptional officer and he will be missed by all,” Toledo Police Department Chief Mike Navarre said. “He was a hero. He did his job and he did it extremely well.”
Dressel, 35, a member of the TPD since December 1993, died early Feb. 21 after being shot in the chest once at close range following the pursuit of 15-year-old North Toledo resident Robert Jobe.
“He was a great member of our family and of his own family as well,” said Ottawa Lake, Mich., resident Pam Dressel, aunt of the fallen detective. “We’re just really proud of what he did.”
Dan Wagner, president of the Toledo Police Patrolman’s Association, said Detective Dressel was loved by his coworkers. He said Detective Dressel shed a positive light on a job often done in the shadows of society.
“He made this job a more enjoyable place to come to,” Wagner said.
In a statement issued through his spokesman, Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner called Dressel’s murder a “tragedy” and said, “The senselessness of this loss weighs heavily on the hearts and minds of his fellow officers as well as all of his professional friends and colleagues in the City of Toledo and our 300,000 citizens.”
Dressel is survived by his wife, the former Danielle Durham, 32, a 6-year-old stepdaughter, Sydney, a 4-year-old son, Noah, and his parents, Michael and Larraine Dressel of Ottawa Lake.
Funeral arrangements for Detective Dressel are being handled by the Bedford Funeral Chapel, 8300 Lewis Ave., Temperance. Visitation will be noon to 8 p.m. Feb. 24 and 25. Dressel’s funeral will take place 11 a.m. Feb. 26 at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church, 8330 Lewis Ave., Temperance.
Wagner and Pam Dressel said upwards of 2,000 to 3,000 police officers from around the Midwest are expected to attend the Feb. 26 funeral.
Donations to the Keith Dressel memorial fund can be made at the Toledo Police Federal Credit Union branches at 525 N. Erie St. and 4280 Heatherdowns Blvd., and Toledo Fire Fighters Federal Credit Union, 2800 W. Laskey Road.
Jobe, Detective Dressel’s accused killer, has been charged by police with aggravated murder with a gun specification in Detective Dressel’s shooting. The Lucas County Prosecutor’s Office filed a motion requesting Jobe be certified to be tried as an adult for his alleged criminal conduct.
Lucas County Juvenile Court Judge James Ray said at a hearing Feb. 22, it could take weeks for him to decide whether to certify Jobe to stand trial as an adult. Ray ordered Jobe to be detained at the Lucas County Juvenile Detention Center until another hearing set for 9 a.m. March 15.
If Jobe is tried as an adult and convicted on the aggravated murder charge, he cannot be sentenced to the death penalty. In the case of Roper v. Simmons, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in March 2005 the death penalty was cruel and unusual punishment for those who committed crimes less than 18 years of age, thus making it barred by the Constitution.
Detective Dressel, a member of the TPD’s vice and narcotics unit, was on routine patrol in North Toledo just before 2 a.m. Feb. 21 when he and fellow plainclothes detectives William Bragg and Todd Miller spotted Jobe and 19-year-old Sherman Powell walking along the 1400 block of North Ontario Street. When the officers exited their vehicle to attend to what they believed was a curfew violation, Jobe and Powell fled in opposite directions.
Powell was immediately taken into custody by Bragg and Miller. Detective Dressel pursued Jobe, who fled northbound on Ontario toward Bush Street.
Navarre said a brief struggle occurred after Dressel grabbed Jobe’s clothing. The youth allegedly pulled out a handgun and shot Dressel at close range. Dressel fired six rounds after being shot, Navarre said, though none of his rounds hit Jobe.
Dressel was not wearing a bulletproof vest at the time because it was not typical for vice officers to wear the safety devices, Navarre said.
Dressel was immediately transported to St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center where he was pronounced dead at 2:36 a.m. Navarre said the bullet went through several of Dressel’s vital organs and heart; a .38-caliber slug was recovered from his body.
“He did not fire first,” Navarre said of Dressel. “We know that with certainty.”
Though Jobe was able to flee the scene of the crime, he surrendered himself without incident just before 11 a.m. at an apartment at 722 Bush St. Police used tracking technology to determine Jobe’s exact location by monitoring cell phone calls he had made to his probation officer prior to the arrest.
Navarre said he believes his officers approached the teens before a possible drug transaction.
Police recovered what is believed to be the murder weapon around 6:30 p.m. that night near the Willis B. Boyer ship museum in East Toledo after a “cooperating witness,” only identified as a friend of Jobe’s, led them to the location. A five-shot .38-caliber Smith & Wesson revolver with four bullets and one spent shell was recovered.
Navarre said the cooperating witness may not be charged with a crime.
Powell appeared in Toledo Municipal Court early Feb. 22 on felony charges of carrying a concealed weapon and obstruction of justice and a misdemeanor charge of resisting arrest. Powell is scheduled to appear in court again March 1.
Though injuries Powell sustained from his arrest were consistent with those of someone tackled to the pavement, Navarre said police would review the incident to ensure proper procedures were followed.
“I assured his mother and him … that we will look at all aspects of this investigation,” Navarre said.
Navarre said he did not detect any remorse from Jobe.
“He didn’t show any emotion,” Navarre said.
Console launches have a lot riding on them. The respective companies spend millions to hype their hardware and draw in new customers. That business model affects other industries as well.
Cody Hutchins works for IntoTheGame.com, an online rental site that stocks Playstation 3, Xbox 360, and Nintendo Wii titles (amongst others).
The launches generally require slightly more stock according to Hutchins.
"You’ll see more at launch overall," he said. "I will say for this launch though, with the PS3, I had nothing. At launch, no one was requesting PS3 games. It took at least a month before I even had the first real PS3 breakout and now it’s coming in at a steadier pace."
It was the opposite situation for the Wii.
"I was really shocked with how many people ordered Wii games. There were a lot more orders for Wii games than I ever expected."
With all the talk of a low number of units shipped to the store, the online portion of the rental industry doesn’t have many problems meeting the demand.
"We try and put up games ahead of time. We can estimate how many to order by how many people put the games in their que."
While a nice way to judge upcoming demand, it’s hardly a perfect method.
"That doesn’t always work as someone may get a PS3 or a Wii today, so it’s a matter of ordering more as needed."
As far as surprises in demand, the Wii has the sleeper hit.
"Trauma Center did a lot better than I expected it to. I expected a few but it got quite a lot of good ratings and I think that sparked a lot of people’s interest. They [Wii owners] were disappointed with Red Steel and everyone bought Zelda, that’s a given. Trauma Center was second or third highest rated title at launch according to most sites."
It’s worth noting that even with a shortage in Wii hardware, Trauma Center ranks in at number three overall according to IntoTheGame’s top rental list which is otherwise dominated by Xbox 360 games.
What about sure sellers such as like Resistance on the PS3 and Zelda: Twilight Princess that many will purchase alongside the hardware? Do these rent well?
"I see more requests for games like Call of Duty 3 than I have Resistance. People who have a 360 might want to see if it looks or handles better, and won’t buy it twice to find out if it’s different. People buy Resistance because you can’t get it anywhere else and rent Call of Duty 3 because they’ve probably played it."
The prospect of new consoles also brought with it easily accessible demos. Surprisingly, people still rent frequently even if a taste is available for free.
"It might hurt rental share a little bit. People will still rent something they want to play though. I remember when Fight Night Round 3 came out and I got to play one match with one boxer in the demo but it was fantastic. Renting is the safe way to play the full game."
As far as which system is currently gaining most of Hutchins playtime, it’s the Xbox 360. Hutchins is a self-proclaimed hardcore gamer, owning all three pieces of new hardware. However, it’s the 360 that keeps drawing him back.
"It seems as though I’d rather play on the 360 right now for various reasons."
Those reasons vary, though one did stick out in his mind.
"It’s little things like achievements. Is there any point to them? No. But, you can show someone anywhere in the world what I’ve done."
He recently spent some time with the Xbox 360 version of Marvel Ultimate Alliance for that very reason.
"Achievements keep me playing and doing things I wouldn’t even try if I was on a PS3, like get all the gold medals in Marvel Ultimate Alliance. I have nothing to show for it I did it on the PS3 other than to close friends."
Regardless of preferences, the rental market for both movies and games has slipped in recent years. The second largest rental chain, Hollywood Video, was sold off to former third place rival Movie Gallery.
In late 2005, it was announced that Blockbuster video posted a loss $491 million according to the CBC, though that number was reduced dramatically to 24.7 million in 2006, attributed to the launch of their online rental service.
With the advent of online rentals, there’s still a profitable business model at work just in different form. Console launches show a small peak, especially with the increase in software prices.
Hutchins explains why a launch is a small boost for business.
"A lot of launch titles are risky and until someone is settled in and knows what’s supposed to be good, then yeah, they’ll rent instead. They don’t feel like spending $60 on a game when they paid $600 for the system."
That, or they just want a quick way.
Would anyone scoff at paying $5 for an enhanced version or collector’s edition of “Citizen Kane” on DVD? If a Shakespeare play were released in a special hardbound cover with outstanding cover art, would $10 be too pricey? The likely answer is “that’s a bargain.”
Then what happened to video games?
While the comparison to literary and film classics may be dubious to some, why does the gaming community look down upon updated releases of historical gaming titles such as “Defender?” What caused the depreciation of what it undoubtedly one of the greats of the industry?
We posed this question to the forum members of Digital Press, a classic video game Web site that catalogs and tracks down obscure games in the best interest of collectors. Surprisingly, there was no debate on the positive aspects of these re-releases, with the thread particularly focusing on a recent Xbox Live Arcade release of “Defender.”
The re-issuing of the Midway title included updated graphics, online play for two players, leaderboards to compare high scores from everywhere in the world for around $5 in Microsoft Points.
Forum member DaBargainHunta made a point that ”… grumbling over a $5 charge does seem a bit silly.”
He was quick to point out that even with the extra features, many retro gamers already own these games, sometimes in multiple forms. Another $5 could lead to picking up a game they never played from a garage sale or flea market.
The next hurdle is the explosion of emulation. As of today, all of the classic releases to the Xbox Live Arcade are available for free and easily downloaded to your PC. While hardly legal, this puts the games in the same area as illegal music downloads. A recent study conducted by Toronto-based Solutions Research Group showed that only 38% of people found downloading a copyrighted song for free as a serious offense.
The gaming industry struggles in the same way, with both retro and current titles. Digital Press member T2Kfreeker made the obvious point that seems to hold true for piracy of any kind.
”Why would you want to pay for it when you can get it for free, right?”
The extra work spent to update these games is not enough to counter the free versions available elsewhere, apparently.
The final hurdle, which many members pointed out, is that these games are not on any kind of physical media.
Imstarryeyed said, ”I think there is a level of tangibility that is present when you actually buy a game versus downloading one from these pay services.”
From the standpoint a collector whose walls are lined with games from eras long past, this response is not surprising. Site moderator Lady Jaye took a different perspective.
”The thing is, the $5 downloadable games aren’t targeted at hardcore retro gamers, but rather at the adult casual gamer who hasn’t played those games for years and might not even be aware of emulation.” She continued with, ”Under that perspective, $5 isn’t a lot to pay for a game like SMB, even if for us, it’s an easily found game in the wild.”
Lady Jaye also took note of the music industry with issue of physical media.
”As for the whole physical versus virtual argument… most people nowadays don’t mind using MP3s without ever having the physical CD. Same thing here.”
Other forum posters attributed the decline in value as a change in standards. Current video games are generally panned if they fail to last 10 hours, winding through a variety of locations and complex storylines. Older games were far simpler, confined to a few screens with the goal being nothing more than a high score.
”For some dumb reason, people measure a game’s ’value’ by how many hours it take to beat it. They believe since a typical Defender game only last 30 minutes, tops, it has less value than a game that last 40 hours,” said veronica_marsfan.
He would go on to say that graphics play a role, with the simple, pixilated graphics of old having trouble keeping up with today’s 3-D visuals created by processes even the hardcore sector has trouble understanding.
Could it also be the social stigma? Kaedesdisciple brought this to the discussion.
”Film is considered art in the mainstream. Video games are not (yet) considered art in the same way, so people wouldn’t pay as much for a reproduction of what is, in the eyes of some, simply a nostalgic toy.”
Regardless of the reasons, the response was universal. Paying $5 for Defender or Super Mario Bothers is unacceptable in today’s gaming market. It’s not that the game’s fail to entertain or create excitement through their play. The majority of the games still hold up as intended when they were first released.
As Poofta! Would reply, ”… these games sucked out countless quarters and hours from us before.”
For many, apparently, that may be the last time they ever spend money on these classics.
Chapter 5: The Guard with the Salt-and-Pepper Moustache
“He looks kind of dead,” the woman behind me repeated.
I wondered what her first clue was, the open sightless eyes or the gaping mouth or the red blot on his tie, clearly not a Rorschach sample.
We were in the Main Library on Michigan and the dead man in the brown suit was the guy Tania and I had been trailing for the last hour or so. No sign of the mystery blonde whom we watched ream him out at Space 237, or of Tania for that matter.
As people rushed up, I thought of that old Groucho Marx line: “Quick, quick, everybody crowd around so he won’t recover.” The man had fallen in that first inner room after the library’s main lobby, where there were rows of illuminated signs, apparently intended to lure the marginally literate, with messages like “NEW” and “COOL” in block letters. He was sprawled in an aisle between the two signs “TRENDS” and “NOTABLE.” Near his body was a copy of Nora Roberts’ latest novel, open on the floor.
Hey!” Tania was pulling on my sleeve. I jumped a little bit and she rolled her eyes. “What happened?” She pulled me off to the side, under a sign that declared “HOT.”
“Isn’t it obvious?” I said. Look at that book.”
“Do you think it’s a clue?”
“He was clearly done in by somebody with good literary taste.”
She gave me that look with the eyebrow.
A security guard with a salt-and-pepper moustache shooed everybody away, then leaned over the body. It looked like he was patting it down. Or looking in the pockets. Then two EMS charged in, and the security guard backed away. A minute later, the corpse was gone and a woman with an ID chain around her neck had reshelved the Nora Roberts novel.
Like it had never happened.
“I thought this was fun when we started,” Tania said, “and kind of exciting. But now —”
I know,” I said. “Do you wanna knock off? The new Kevin Smith movie just opened at Cinematique.”
“Do you wanna knock off?”
“Of course not,” I said quickly. “I just thought —”
“This started as just a game, right? But maybe we stumbled onto something more important.”
“Or dangerous,” I offered.
“So maybe we should go to the police.”
“With what evidence?”
“Well, funny you should say that,” Tania said. “That’s what I came back inside to tell you. I caught up with our blonde friend again outside.” This was the accomplice (or boss) of the newly dead man in the brown suit.
I didn’t see her in here,” I said.
Huh. Maybe she had a partner, or maybe … you just didn’t see her.”
I didn’t feel like arguing.
“She came outside — she smells like White Linen, by the way.”
“Noted. Then what?”
She looked around, and put something in the big book drop out front.”
“I couldn’t tell.”
“Did she see you?”
“Are you sure?”
Tania sighed, which clearly meant, “Oh, ye of little faith.”
“So maybe we can go to the police with this …” I said.
“We could do that,” she said. “Or…”
To be continued.
Chapter 6: 10:16 p.m.
I met a man today.
Okay. A guy. I, who haven’t had a date since Carty was mayor the first time, met a likely prospect. Not that he pencilled me in or anything.
I was at the ballpark, perusing items being included in an upcoming exhibit. I don’t even follow the game, but this stuff had me anticipating the first pitch of the season. There were old programs and scorecards, autographed balls, uniform pieces, you name it. What really grabbed me were the photos, like the one of Moses Fleetwood Walker. He was the first black man to play for the majors. “Fleet” and his brother Welday Wilberforce Walker (what a wonderful name!) were members of the 1884 Toledo Toledos, apparently a major league team that year. Then there was the shot of Jim Thorpe. He’d been a Mud Hen in ‘21. What a surprise! Matt and I bawled like babies over that old Burt Lancaster biopic.
Baseball nuts and local history buffs’ll go gaga when this show opens, and I decided it’d make a great little story. Armando was a little late meeting me when I spotted him across Washington giving money to a homeless man, one Mr. Nancy, he said on joining me. He took a few snaps of the artifacts and memorabilia, grew restless, and said he was heading toward King Road to check out a reported sighting of Sylvania’s Skunk Ape.
“The Good News does not do Bigfoot!” I hollered after him as he left.
That’s when I met Jack. I was rummaging thru a carton marked ‘70s, when a voice behind me said, “Hey! You found my favorite glove. I’ve been looking for that.”
I whirled around and bumped smack into a good six foot of ballplayer staring down at me out of eyes every shade of blue.
“Pardon me, miss. I didn’t mean to startle you.” A smile played across his lips. We stood gawping at each other for several seconds before I handed him the glove, or rather, attempted to do so, as I had suddenly become bumbling and dropped it. We both grabbed for it, knocked heads, and landed on our keisters laughing. The scene could have been in a Harlequin Romance.
We got to talking, and he told me that he was an outfielder, and that he loved baseball more than anything. Said he could barely stand waiting for the season to begin so that he could “live again.” Wow. If every guy on this year’s roster is as excited about his job as Jack, it’ll be another winning team.
I didn’t want the conversation to end, but I was due elsewhere, so I excused myself, thanking him for a lovely chat. He helped me to my feet, and I told him where he could reach me for a possible interview (good one, McDonald!).
I ran down the street, returning Mr. Nancy’s jaunty wave, and floated thru the rest of the day.
To be continued.
Setting aside the controversy over being paid to blog and should you disclose and if so what constitutes full disclosure, this week’s column and next week’s column will focus on what happens when you’ve made the decision that you want to make money from your blog or blogs. I’ll share what I’ve learned while trying this and how that can help you find the right program or programs to be paid to blog.
The primary factor that controls how much money you can make from your blog is your Google Page Rank, which is a very complicated system, based on a zero to ten scale, and your traffic numbers. My favorite tool to check Page Rank is here, there are others, but in my opinion that one is the easiest one to use. Google Adsense and all of the other programs out there like Amazon’s affiliate program and even Café Press, where you market your own creations are nice, but the reality is the majority of us don’t have the traffic to make a profit from any of those. I highly recommend checking your TOS (Terms of service) because some free blogging platforms, such as WordPress will not allow paid blogging. Blogger (blogspot) will but some advertisers prefer bloggers who are on their own paid domains. You will also need a PayPal account since the majority of these programs only use that as a form of payment. Please also remember that most of these companies will send you a 1099 for tax purposes at the end of the year and they will want your Social Security number.
I have done paid posts or signed up for most of the popular paid blogging formats on two blogs, Liberal Common Sense which has a page rank of 6, which is pretty good, and one that started out with a page rank of zero and is now a 3, Unrealistic Expectations.
The easiest pay to blog program if you have at least a page rank of three is PayU2blog.com. Once you are approved you are sent a weekly list of links to advertisers with the key word they want you to use. All you have to do is write at least 60 words using that link in the context of your post. In return you are paid $5.00 for each post and the money is paid thru PayPal bi-weekly. The downside to PayU2blog for some is they do not want these posts disclosed as paid posts. The upside is you do not have to worry about logging into get assignments and you can write them in any order.
CreamAid is open to all bloggers, the opportunities pay from $1.00 and up with increased earnings being paid to you if people click on your post to write a post of their own. CreamAid pays thru PayPal, typically one or two days after a post has been approved. The downside to CreamAid is the chance you could write a post that ends up not being selected and therefore not paid and you have to put a piece of code on your blog post that clearly identifies this as a CreamAid post. CreamAid does not ask for your Social Security number, only your PayPal account email.
Next week we continue with some of the more “big money” paid blogging platforms, even for those of you who have Live Journal, Xanga or MySpace blogs. In the meantime, Lisa Renee can be found on Glass City Jungle and if you have a story you’d like to share about making money blogging or a blog you’d like her to visit, email firstname.lastname@example.org.