The first part of this week was dedicated to trying to regain feeling in my shoulder and collar bone. Then on Wednesday our tour guide actually did take us to the Vasa Museum. I liked this museum more so than the military museum of Sweden and I wish I would have taken the camera because I could have taken some good pictures. The Vasa Museum is a museum dedicated to the pride of the Swedish fleet. The ship was pretty big and they had it displayed well as the building was constructed so you could see every level of the ship. They had videos and tours frequently that you could watch in English so I was able to understand some stuff about it and obviously everything I didn't understand Mario explained it for me...lol. The museum was like in low light because they said it helps preserve the ship and there were also a lot of Chinese people in the museum speaking that stuff they speak. The tour guide said that it took 2 1/2 years to build the ship and then it sank in the first 20 minutes out at sea. He said that there were several reasons for it sinking such as; it was too tall and narrow, not enough weight in the bottom (ballast) and there was more ship out of the water than underwater. The carpentry on the boat was really good. They had all of these intricate carvings all over the boat. He also said that the king was wanting it to be the best ship and all so he kept adding things and making changes while they were building it so that threw them off a little bit. I think the ship had everything perfect except to the point about making sure it would float. I thought it was neat to see how they got the ship out of the water to get it into the museum. They had divers go down there and dig holes under the ship and run ropes under it then they positioned all these ships and barges and flotation devices around it and moved it underwater to a more shallow area and then they hoisted it out of the water very slowly. It seemed to be a very in depth process and was also a dirty job from seeing the video. Putting all the pieces back together on the ship took a while and so they said that the " Vasa " is known as the largest jigsaw puzzle in the world. This ship was suppose to take part in the war against Poland. If you want to know more about our tour and all that then you can email Mario at mariodonato[@]hotmail.com and he will give you a wealth of knowledge. Once again Mario did not let a sign go unread. It must have cost a lot to bring the ship out and have it on display as they charge you 4 dollars an hour just for parking. On a side note I did play a game in Finland in a town called Vaasa if that means anything. haha. On Wednesday night Håkan and his lady had us over to eat again and I got the honor of cooking the desert, which I might add was a once a year delicacy. I told him that he's lucky we are leaving or we could make this a once a week tradition. lol. We had lasagna and salad and again left on a full stomach so that was a relaxing evening. Then on Thursday I couldn't resist it any longer and the opportunity presented itself so we had the shot and we took it even though we proceeded below the hard deck level. On Thursday afternoon we set out on the Silja line to Finland with our offensive coordinator Coach Wikstrom. The Trojans played the Roosters in the championship game again so it was only right that we spend a few days in Turku and be present for this spectacle. This is a picture of the boat what we traveled on. Here are some specs from the boat in case you are a detail freak: Passengers 2,852, Cabins 985, stories 12, Conference rooms 25, Bars 7, Restaurants 6, Shops 6, Sauna and Relax, Solarium, Etc etc...Length 203 m, Width 31.5 m, Power 44,000 hp An interior design of the boat is below ...
So as you can tell we were roughing it on the way to Finland. This was my first time on any type of cruise ship. Most of the time it's me and Coach Mangum in the John boat, but this was a little different. We left Stockholm around 3 pm on Thursday and landed in Helstinky at 10 am the next morning. Note there was a time change. The atmosphere on the ship was pretty neat. When we first got onto the ship we went to our rooms, dropped the luggage off, and then proceeded downstairs to the promenade to make arrangements to eat. After we had reserved a time to eat then we went out on the back of the ship to the stern ( if you look on the layout we were looking from the deck at Joe's Bar ) for the takeoff and it was neat to feel the big engines start cranking. After that we went and ate this huge buffet that they have on board the boat. We ate regular food and some oddities that we ate were like octopus rings, herring every way you could possibly cook it, salmon, and reindeer stew. After we ate we walked around the boat and looked around it some and then talked on the deck until the sun went down. Coach was taking pictures during the whole evening so it was pretty cool because we have a lot of pics on the site today. After the sun went down we went and watched some karaoke up on the stardust lounge and you could definitely tell when a Finnish song was playing versus a Swedish song. Then after this at 12 we went and saw the nightly show that they have on board. After the show we went up and went to sleep and when we woke up we were at the port in Helsinki. Below I have posted pictures from the trip over and pictures from inside the ship so you can get a feel for what it looked like.
One hand for Sweden , One hand for Finland
This Russian lady sang some karaoke
A dance on the cruise ship
Now let me back up and tell you that when I found out that there was a possibility to go to Finland I sent out a blanket email to like 8 people in Turku. Within 10 minutes we already had a hotel room reserved for us in downtown Turku and by the next day we had like 6 offers to put Mario and me up for 2 days. So a big thanks to Mr. Patrick ( HomeAmerican ) Morton for taking extremely good care of us while we were there. I think that just goes to show how nice the guys in Turku are and now you can understand why I'm always pumping up Turku at home. So you may be asking yourself..." wasn't Clint banned from Finland "...well that is a good question that I was worried about as well. However there was no passport control on the ships in between Sweden and Finland so we were able to ride right on. I say ride right on because that's what we did. Our offensive coordinator is from Finland and so when he goes on the ship he takes his car and then drives it right out when he arrives in Finland. It was kind of weird to ride a car onto a huge cruise ship, but that's how we got on. They have these huge doors that open up and you can drive right in. I got a pic of the car docks as well. I think they also ship goods back and fourth as there were also tour busses and transport trucks parked in the bay.
We parked underneath the ship
And for all of you who are wondering....no I did not tell Frank or Frances Patterson of our adventure. It was better that they not worry. We got into Hestinky and Coach Wikstrom drove us around for a little bit and we even revisited the Veladrome, where we took the crown last year. We were the only people there so it was weird and talk about De-ja-vu. The whole weekend was this way as I was going and visiting places that I thought I would never ever see again in my life. Many of the places had stayed the same, but some things had changed. So after this we went and had lunch with the president of the Finnish American Football Federation, as he and Coach are friends. This guy's name is on the official league ball that they play with in Finland. So that was neat. None other than Mika Sevon was contacted and it just happened that he was in town doing business so we waited on him to get through then caught a ride back to Turku with the oldest living active player in Finnish football history. For me this was another de-ja-vu thing because last year when I first arrived in Finland it was Sevon who picked me up from the airport and on the way to Turku we stopped at his house and met his wife and she walked out on the porch and said hello and she had a baby in her arms. Well sure enough we pulled up and she walked out on the porch and said hello and had another baby in her arms. It was beginning to seem like a flashback at this point. The only difference was that instead of saying " Its good to meet you " ...she said " Its good to meet you again ". So Mario got to know the one and only Mika Sevon on his first day in Finland and now Mario is the 2nd member of the Mika Sevon international fan club ( as I am acting president and founder ). So Sevoni dropped us off at the hotel in downtown Turku. We checked into the hotel and then I began to show the city to Mario. I knew once it turned night that I would be able to find some of my friends from last year working at the doors of the clubs. I had planned on sending them text messages when I got there, but go figure that an Ericcson ( Swedish ) pre-paid phone wouldn't let me do that on a Finnish network. So I couldn't get in touch with my friends through my phone. We went and ate a pizza buffet at Rax which is a historical spot for Marlon and I because it was the only buffet in Turku. After we ate we went back to the hotel for a bit and watched the massacre that was going on in Russia. Those guys are really crazy over there. Then it was night time and we did indeed walk the streets and I bumped into like 5 people that I knew that were still working at the same places. None of the players were out that evening due to it being the night before the championship. We got up with my boy Enes at a club called Kåren. It was good to see Enes again as he was one of the guys who really took care of me and Marlon last year. He was working at some international university's welcome back party and of course we were up in there. Man they had all kind of nationalities in there and you could see which countries/people groups had rhythm and which ones didn't. After he got off from there we went to another place. I think they had dedicated a club to Marlon as the name of this club was called " The Giggling Marlin " ...lol. After this we were heading back to the hotel and I had to eat just one more He'sburger before I died. I also got Mario to eat one too. Below are pictures from that day in Turku and some will be pointless to many of you, but for Marlon it will be neat to see so just bare with us.
Me in front of Prima
The Street next to the Prima
Mario at the team bar
Mario by the main river in Turku
The square in downtown Turku
Now on Saturday morning we woke up and ate the breakfast buffet and then headed to meet the bus to the game. We rode with Patrick and his family, the president of the team, and the cheerleaders to the game. It was a neat ride and we even stopped at the restaurant that we always stopped at when we were going to play the Roosters so once again de-ja-vu. I talked with some of the cheerleaders that I remembered from last year so that was kind of neat. Every one was asking me about Sweden and this season and my experiences over here. I felt like I said the same things like a million times, but it was all in good intentions. So it was Saturday and we were on the way to the game. When we arrived they were in warm ups and upon entering the stadium I began to see fans, friends, players wives, and player's girlfriends that I remembered from last year so it was good to see them all again. I even signed 4 footballs and 1 t-shirt for some fans and every time that happens I can hardly take myself serious. I'm just cheesing from ear to ear trying to act like calm, cool and collective or whatever. They were even giving out these papers at the game with my picture on them. Watching the game was once again odd for me as I felt like I had just graduated and was back at Central High watching my former classmates play again. The game was a pretty good game, but you could tell that a lot of the guys that had retired were on defense and mainly the defensive line. The team had also lost a lot of people to injuries this season as well. The score was 28 - 21 going into the half and I think the final score was like 49 - 28. After the game I got to talk with Brett (the Qb the Trojans had this year) again for a minute. So we had seen each other in Stockholm and now in Helsinki. I felt that he played really well and did as good as one could possibly do given the cards he was dealt so that is what I told him. The injured players on offense and defense had a pretty big effect on the team I think. I know that they had a starting TE, WR, and LB that didn't play. So the Turku Trojans did not repeat despite a valiant effort, but nonetheless Mika Sevon was 4 - 4 on extra points and thus the legacy continues. After the game I got pictures with some of the guys and talked with them again. I surprised myself by remembering all of their names without even hesitating. Also I don't know if it was something in the water, but many of the players wives were pregnant. Maybe it was post championship happiness that led to it from last year, but either way we sat in the pregnant wives section during the game...lol. Below are some pictures from before and after the game.
Me and the Findland fellas (Enes, Suopa, & Sami)
Me and the Findland fellas II (Mika Sevon, Juka Satola, Mikka Riionhemo, & Kim Gronlund)
At the championship game they gave out newspapers and I was on the cover... it was like dejavu
Once we got back into Turku we went over to Patrick ( HomeAmerican ) Morton's house and ate pizza for a bit while we waited on the team to get back into town. All of the players said that they were going to the Olkku which is like the team gathering place in Turku. We then met the team at the Olkku and it was good to see the guys again all at the same time. I even took a few snaps with Kimi (my center from last year). After some time there we left and went to the Giggling Marlin again. From talking with a lot of the people at the game and on the team I believe that there are more people in Finland that read my web page over here than people in Sweden. After the Gigglin Marlin we went caught a " black " taxi and stayed the night at my ex-o-coordinator's house. Mario got to meet a lot of the guys during this time and he and Harry P. Haatsa Malkimaki bonded over 70's & 80's music. Here are some pictures from that.
Proof that we were indeed in Finland... this guy was struggling
We got like 3 hours of sleep and then chef Malkimaki made us a gourmet, sit down, table properly set meal. Mario and I even caught a quick Finnish Sauna ( Mario's first genuine Finnish sauna experience ) and then got a taxi into town so that we could catch the bus back to Helsinki again. We made the bus by 5 minutes and were on our way back to meet Coach Wikstrom so we could get on the boat in time. We got off the bus at the wrong stop of course so we decided to take some pictures in front of the parliament building while Coach had to come rescue us. Of course Mario made me take some random pictures of statues for historical purposes I guess. Here are those pictures.
Me at the Parliament building in Helsinki
Mario at the Parliament
So we got up with Coach and then were on our way to reboard the ship. We stopped and took a few pictures around a port in Helsinki and coach also took some pictures from the the boat on the way back. Coach Wikstrom's below pictures are also available in a high resolution format at this link. You can even have them printed and buy them from that site as well (in case you cared). As we were leaving Helsinki we could see the Islands called the archipelago on the way out. Some of these still had military remains on them and one of them even has the only submarine that belongs to Finland in the picture (Rumor has it that it doesn't work). Check them out.
So we had arranged for the same buffet and we ate it up again and then after that we were all exhausted. Mario and I were running on empty and Coach Wikstrom said that he didn't get too much sleep in Helsinki either... something about a championship or something, but anyways we went back to our room and we all just knocked out. We slept for about 4 hours then woke up and went out on the deck again for some fresh air after which we returned back to the room and went to sleep again. We woke up in Stockholm the following morning and now we are back in Tyreso. This weekend was definitely a memorable one for me as well as Mario and the whole thing seemed surreal the way it all worked out. I think we stayed just long enough for Mario to not be able to make me go to another museum so that was good. Over the weekend I recognized that I can now pick out the different languages of Swedish and Finnish. Usually in the past I couldn't tell what they were speaking, but I just knew that it was foreign to me, but now I can definitely tell what language is being spoken when I hear it. I also got my brain scrambled with languages a few times too. I can only say and know a few words, phrases, and the numbers, but just going back to Finland threw me for a loop in the beginning. I was hearing Finnish and responding in Swedish subconsciously and vice versa. For a brief moment ( in McDonalds ) I couldn't draw the line on what words were from what country, but I got it straight after a little while. I was speaking a salad of languages and only got laughed at. I can still speak more Finnish than Swedish and this is probably due to 2 reasons; time spent in Finland was longer and more people in Sweden speak English. This weekend would not have been anywhere near possible if it wasn't for the generosity and kindness of many individuals. So its only correct that Mario and I say a huge thanks to Coack Wikstrom, Patrick Morton, Haatsa, Sevon, and all the guys in Turku and Helsinki that took extremely good care of us and made it all possible. It was definitely a trip to remember. We were there for 3 days and we went back and fourth from Turku to Helsinki once each day so it was all a whirlwind. As I have previously mentioned I was nominated for the " Import of the Year " award in our league in Sweden. Well needless to say I missed the banquet. I mean I normally wouldn't miss a function like that, but for a chance to do what all we did I would do it again without thinking twice. Turns out that it wasn't that bad anyways because I didn't win the award. I came in 2nd in votes and some people have informed me that going home in the middle of the season didn't help in winning so I can't complain. So thanks again to everyone. Off into the sunset.....Somebody say Denmark ?
This week was pretty eventful. I'm beginning to start my " about to go home shopping " and so Marlon and I are in the malls and seeing what all we can buy. We did lift weights 3 times this week again. On Wednesday Marlon won the sauna competition and if you want to read the details then Click Here . It was pretty funny to hear those guys talking junk to each other and I was even sweating just standing outside of the sauna. Marlon said that it felt like someone was ripping his skin off of his back, but nevertheless he endured.
On Friday, I went ice skating for the first time in my life. I'll just say that I wasn't too graceful. I think I stayed on the ice for about 5 minutes. I had like 2 falls in 3 minutes so I wasn't too productive. The ice is hard and cold when you fall too (what a profound statment). Marlon wasn't so graceful either as he did some movements that looked like tip toe drills on the ice. Eventually he just fell and rolled back to the side. They were calling us Bambi and Grizzly on ice. I've posted some pictures from the experience and as you can see my ice skating career wasn't much too brag about. I've got it on film too so if you want you can check it out when I get home and Todd if you are reading this, don't tell or show Dixon my pictures cause he'll be talking smack to me. hahahha.
This weekend we played the Crocodiles for the 3rd time this year. This game was a TV game and marked the second round of the playoffs. This team had picked up a new American Qb and had their American linebacker back since the last game that we played. It was forecasted to rain before the game and it did a lot and the field was in bad shape, not to mention the condition of the balls. I was interviewed by the TV guys before the game so that was pretty neat. He even asked me what was the deal about some web page so I gave him the address. The game got off to a good start as the defense got a safety on the first drive, but then the offense went 3 and out on our series. The very next series one of our db's picked off a pass for a td. The defense played really well this game. This was the first game that the offense was leaning on the defense and they were picking up our slack. On offense we couldn't get anything started all the first half. In the second half though we finally got moving. I ended up with 3 td passes, which all came in the second half and I believe it was for 243 yards. We won like 35 - 0. This game was a very sloppy game as my uniform got very muddy from the field being so wet. I smelled like a backwoods South Carolina swamp when you're duck hunting if you know what I mean. You will see from the pictures. Oh yeah and they said that on TV the broadcasters commented on Marlon's victory in the Sauna Bowl. hahaha. Later on that night when we went to eat they were replaying our game on TV over here. It was pretty neat to be watching yourself on TV.
This week they were having something interesting over here that we normally wouldn't have back at home. They had a a thing called Turku Sex . I guess it was like a sex exhibition or something. I don't know was happening over there, but I did see all of the advertising for it around town. I'll just say that the advertisements wouldn't be allowed at home either. I heard rumors that if you went naked that you got in free, but I'm not sure about that either cause we didn't go, but I was tempted. Finland is also hosting the championships for soccer under the age 17 and I believe that Finland got beat already, but the USA team is still playing. I guess we are getting good at soccer now I dont know. I heard Finland got beat 9 - 1 by Colombia. How ironic.
So now my time is winding down here and before we know it Marlon and I will be getting on a big bird headed back to the hot, sticky south. It's been a long ride, but hopefully we will have a happy ending.
I happen to surf over to the Central High Football website ( www.centralhighfootball.com ) and was looking at the roster pictures. Can somebody tell me what Trent and Garrett are thinking with their hair? Are they in some kind of contest to see who's got the nappiest hair or something? I hope those boys beat Timmonsville so somebody keep me posted with the details of the game. I can find the score online, but not whether somebody got stuck or not.
So it looks like we will have to go back to Helsinki to play for the championship. I hope we can do it..and it should be a good game.
This was a cop on a horse
This guy was drunk and was literally crawling up the sidewalk
Went to a castle
Went to a cathedral
Last week I attended Microsoft’s Build Conference in Seattle. It was my first time attending so I was excited and didn’t know what to expect. It didn’t take long to realize that Microsoft puts on a top-notch event. From DJ’s playing music during the waiting line, to the constantly available live-stream piped everywhere throughout the event, to “cuddle-corner” where attendees could pet animals and relax, to the awesome expo, and non-stop new features and functionality being rolled out one could easily be impressed.
It was indeed a great event and I’d like to share a few things I learned from having attended the conference. These items will be more high-level and conceptual things I noticed versus down-in-the-weeds technology specific items.
As attendees listened to live-streamed sessions and keynotes the word cloud and “Azure” was prevalent throughout. I spent a lot of time in the expo hall of the event and I must have walked around it 6 or 7 times looking and booths and talking with Microsoft staff. Each booth has a navy-blue sign with white letters at the top indicating the technology being demonstrated at the booth. It was very eye-opening how many of the booths started with the word “Azure”. Sure, Azure has been out for a while now and that’s nothing new. I’m just communicating that walking around the expo and listening to sessions and keynotes it is crystal clear that Azure is a major component of many Microsoft technologies.
Take Home Point: If you are reading this and are hesitant to embrace Azure, you should re-think your position, or you’ll soon be left in the dust.
At the event Microsoft released “Sphere” which is a solution for creating highly-secure connected microcontrollers (IOT devices). And you guessed it… they connect to Azure! Many of the highly attended sessions and one of the most highly-trafficked booths all centered around Sphere.
As an IOT hobbyist I spent some time at the Sphere booth asking all kinds of questions about the Sphere Development Kits. I think the devices will be high-powered and offer a lot of functionality, but right now the price-point seems high in comparison to competitor solutions and the device that was being demo’d only connects to wi-fi currently. I imagine in the future they will connect to cellular via a SIM as well. One could argue that the increase in cost is the tradeoff for security as Microsoft touted how secure these devices are.
While micro-controller devices were being demo’d it’s important to note that Microsoft is not making the micro-controllers, rather they are working with established vendors in the industry to do so. Microsoft is collaborating in the design of the devices and helping align them with their IOT strategy for the future.
Take Home Point: Microsoft is continuing to invest in IOT, is linking devices to Azure, and is promoting the security of their IOT solution.
Another common thread throughout the event were the words “ML” and “AI”. You could hear this being presented in several sessions, keynotes, and there were booths discussing and demoing these topics as well…. and it makes sense. If your overall strategy is the cloud (Azure) and now IOT devices are easily connected to the cloud and sending tons of data to the cloud, then what will you do with all the data? The answer: you will learn from it and use it to make better decisions and become predictive.
An example demo showed a DJI drone flying over the top of a building looking at HVAC pipes analyzing them for inconsistencies or anomalies. Within seconds the drone was able to pick out the pipe that had the issue and show it to the audience in real-time. One can easily see the benefits of equipping the drone with AI capabilities.
But it doesn’t stop there… Microsoft is making it easy for developers to tie into their ML and AI capabilities in Azure. If you’ve got data stored in Azure, chances are leveraging the ML/AI capabilities offered to you by Microsoft could help your organization.
Take Home Point: Don’t write “ML” and “AI” off as just buzzwords. If you are using Azure then you may be surprised at how ML and AI can already help you. Give it a look!
One thing that also stuck out to me at the conference was the energy and level of enthusiasm of attendees and exhibitors. And I’m not just talking about Microsoft fan-boys. There were a lot of non-Microsoft developers at the event which was interesting and served as proof to me that Microsoft is on the right track strategically speaking.
As of late Microsoft has been heavily promoting open source and being open in general. From the open-sourcing of many of their .NET Technologies, to embracing non-Microsoft technologies (think running Linux in Azure) Microsoft is earning the respect of developers. But this stuff doesn’t just happen by luck. Microsoft has taken a different strategic stance and it is paying off… you could easily “feel” it while at the conference.
Take Home Point: This ain’t your granddaddy’s Microsoft!
I’m glad I went to Microsoft Build. I’ve been to several conferences over the years (including South by Southwest) and Build was by far my favorite. Yes, the content was great, but the conference experience extended beyond the content of the sessions and was woven all throughout all touch points of the event.
Everything was well-planned, organized, and first class from what I could tell. The registration process went smoothly, swag was everywhere, food and drinks were easily available, “Flow” of the expo was easy and open, the venue was great, several hotels were close by, the new technologies and content was awesome, and the Microsoftees were friendly. I didn’t see any attendees who had issues connecting to the internet or complaining about the typical things you’d see at conferences. All the details seemed to have been handled.
After all, where else could you hear about the latest and greatest technologies, pet dogs/rabbits/miniature horses, get free massages, meet the leaders of Microsoft, and have bottomless refreshments and snacks all in the same room?
Take Home Point: If you haven’t been to Build, you should go. It’s a great event.
My wife and I recently sold our townhome and set out to buy a new home. We spent a good deal of time researching, driving out to communities, and looking at floor plans. We finally settled on a new-construction development that was a Lennar community.
As we looked at the different floor plans we had a few that we liked, but ended up settling on a plan called the “Westley”. We chose a lot that was having the foundation laid so that we could still pick floor colors and have a little control over some features. We were excited to watch the home as it went up.
Of course once we sold the townhome we were displaced and without a home while the new home was being constructed. Based on the word Lennar gave us we would close on June 26th. Since we sold the townhome on June 5th that would give us about 3 weeks where we would shack up with my mom. This was where the “fun” began.
While the home was being constructed we made a few trips to the community to meet with the builder and to fill out paperwork regarding the loan. On one trip the home seemed to be a long way from “closing” and I asked the supervisor if he thought he was still on track to close on the 26th. He responded “Oh yeah, shoot if this good weather keeps up we may close early”. With the house still having a lot of work that needed to be done it was difficult to believe that timeline, but I am obviously not a builder and so I leaned on the supervisor’s expertise.
The day finally came for the walkthrough. As you can imagine, my wife and I were excited to go and review our soon-to-be new home. I had recently been to the home and had a list of items that I wanted to ensure were completed while we reviewed the home. At this meeting there were 2 building supervisors present, my wife and I, plus our real estate agent team members.
When we arrived at home we learned that the electricity had not been turned on. Translation: there was no air conditioning on and it was in the dead of the humid South Carolina summer. As all the windows were closed in the home it was like an oven and it didn’t take long before we all were sweating. The Lennar representatives told us that we would go through the home with blue tape and mark every item that needed to be touched up or corrected. They also indicated that this would be our only chance at creating a “punch list” and that moving forward only items on the list would be worked on. So this was our only opportunity to find items that were not done correctly – during the middle of a work day, in a house with no air condition, during the heat of the summer, and with a scheduled hour for the meeting. As you can imagine, the conditions were not the best for the walkthrough.
We started in the garage and I started asking about things and marking things up. The supervisors told me that the garage was “still a work in progress” and that a lot of work still needed to be done. I thought to myself that it wasn’t really fair to tell us that this was our only chance to make a punch list, but then to turn around and say that this area was still “in progress”. What were we supposed to do other than just trust them? We couldn’t really call out items that technically were not through or finished. That was the first of several red flags throughout the failed process.
As we went through the house we found several items that were not as they should be. There were door casings with no paint at all, door casings with large splinters, several areas that should have caulk that did not have caulk (such as the bathroom sinks), a noticeable bend in the metal in the front door’s casing, thin and uneven paint throughout the house, a metal awning over the bay window that looked terribly crafted, a crawl space door that had sprayed foam through 2 of the 5 gaps in the wood, and the main thing we noticed was a pretty nice hump in the dining room floor and in the kitchen pantry closet that was along the same seam in the floor. The uneven floor signaled a foundation that wasn’t level and that really concerned us.
By the end of the first walkthrough everyone was completely soaked in sweat, hot, and we had gone through 2 and a half rolls of blue tape. Every room in the house literally had blue tape all over it. In short, the home was a long ways from being ready and there was still a lot of work to be done. The following week our real estate agent spoke with a representative from Lennar who guaranteed our real estate agent that “Your clients won’t close until they are 100% happy".
As any home buyer would do we hired a home inspection company to inspect the house. A week or so later we met the home inspector at the house to review his report. He had been there 3 hours inspecting the house by the time we arrived. The good news was that in order to inspect the house the electricity had to be turned on, which meant this time we wouldn’t leave soaked in sweat. The home inspector found several of the items that we had blue-taped but he also found several more items that we hadn’t. He indicated that the vertical seams in the outer trim work needed to be caulked, an item which I had already raised to the supervisor in the first walkthrough and that they told me didn’t need caulk. He also identified areas where the bay windows & fireplace met the roof where there was clearly exposed wood beneath the flared edges. The inspector pointed it out to us and said “If I can see that wood and you can see it then you know that moisture can enter as well as bugs”. Needless to say you don’t need any wood exposed to the elements. The exposed wood was due to a technique Lennar uses in scenarios where bay windows connect back to fascia boards near the roof. This exposed wood scenario was present in several areas of the house’s roof. And since the air condition was on the inspector was able to identify a whistling sound in the air conditioning. The whistling sound represented air either coming through or getting out of somewhere that it shouldn’t and it could result in an increased bill to heat or cool the home.
In the end the Home Inspector created a staggering 85 page report filled with images and lists of issues with the house. I’ve included several images from the report in this blog entry. While we were glad that the home inspector found these issues it didn’t make us feel any better about the home.
By this time the builder had reviewed our punch list and had also received the inspector’s 85 page report. We worked with Lennar to accommodate their request to push back the closing by a week. A week later, when I arrived to this walkthrough I saw the entire front door being removed and there were several vehicles at the home. When I entered the house I learned that we now had a new supervisor. I’m not sure if the old one was fired, transferred, or what happened, but we would be dealing with a new supervisor going forward. There was also a Lennar representative there who appeared to be the manager of the supervisors. He maintained his distance throughout the walkthrough, but I saw him through the windows outside of the house just walking around and shaking his head as if here were saying “No” when looking at the craftsmanship of the home.
In our initial conversations with the construction supervisors our real estate agent let them know that we shouldn’t have even done the 1st walk through when we did. She told them that the house wasn’t nearly in the shape it should have been for a walkthrough. The Lennar team seemed apologetic and the new supervisor seemed to recognize that he was thrown into a difficult situation. While we were there talking one of the supervisors told us “We really do want to deliver a quality product to you all”. He seemed sincere and at the sight of seeing the front door being replaced and then hearing the reassurance from the Lennar crew I felt somewhat better initially.
As we re-walked through the home we again put blue tape on areas that needed to be updated. There were still several of the same areas that needed work. We just, again, put tape back on the same areas where we previously put tape. At one point the new supervisor said that we should just stop the walkthrough and let them revisit the entire house themselves. It was as if he recognized all the general theme of the issues and knew the house wasn’t ready for a walkthrough. Though, after making that comment they continued walking through with us. It was a little odd.
Upon walking into the dining room area it was apparent that nothing had been done with the hump in the floor. This was one of our major concerns that we had voiced to them several times. We called it out to them and continued the re-walk through. When we got to the attic we still heard the AC whistling. We again cited that to them along with the areas outside the needed caulking + the exposed wood above the windows. On this walkthrough the garage doors were up and we were able to see that the “stud” boards that the garage door was bolted to were bowing inward toward the door.
At the end of walkthrough we were in the garage talking with the Lennar representatives and our real estate agents. This time the corporate guy or the supervisor of the construction managers joined us. We again expressed concern over the hump in the floor and the most senior guy piped up saying that the hump in the floor was normal. I questioned him about that and he said that the hump in the floor was within their “tolerance” and that they wouldn’t be doing anything about it. My thought was that if something is within your tolerance then we shouldn’t be able to see it with a naked eye. My wife then spoke up saying that it was unfortunate to hear that Lennar was essentially drawing the line and not going to do anything to make the floor right. Her comment apparently got to the guy’s ego a bit because he puffed his chest out and said started telling us that he had been building houses for over 18 years and that this kind of thing is expected. I laughed out loud at him because he took my wife’s comment personally and tried to tell us how much of a building legend he was. I had never seen this guy before. All I knew was that he showed up, stood around, and was on his cell phone a lot. He could have been our neighbor for all I knew. I guess he wanted instant credibility because he wore work boots. I asked him to get his level and let’s go look at the floor. We went back into the dining room and found that the wall was also bowed. The level we used was a 6 foot level and was long enough to get from one hump to the next so to me it didn’t accurately represent the hump in the floor. They again stated that they would work on the wall, but not the floor.
By the time walkthrough #3 got here we were 3 weeks past schedule on the house. The lender was forced to extend the interest “rate-lock” agreement for the 2nd time and it was costing Lennar money each time. I had also started a new job and had been gone for 10 days which gave the builder plenty of time to fix the items that remained. I figured with me being gone so long Lennar should have no excuse for not having the items taken care of.
This walkthrough was unlike any other and was odd from the onset. We again showed up with our real estate agents and it became very clear that the Lennar sales representative + the construction manager were rushing us through the walkthrough. Why did they want to rush us? We had a punch list and before even addressing all items in one room, the Lennar reps were saying “Ok, what’s in the next room?” For much of the walkthrough I was lagging behind actually spending time looking at the issues they were supposed to fix.
When we continuously called out the thin paint the Lennar sales representative told us that in a walkthrough home buyers are supposed to stand 5 feet away from a wall and look rather then get up close to the wall. This puzzled us. If were are going to make a significant investment in a home I don’t care if I lay down on my back and look upside down. If something is supposed to have paint on it, then it should have paint on it. This goes back to a conversation I had one evening with a painter, but more on that later.
By the time we had gotten upstairs we had noticed the hump still in the floor downstairs + newly scratched up wood in the den area. When the lady told my wife to stand 5 feet away from the wall to review the thin paint it kind of put a line in the sand. We just all stood there in this one room and had an awkward moment of silence. I asked the question “So you’ve known about the punch list for over a month now and there are still issues. Are you going to fix these issues?” At this point the construction manager responded “The house is what it is and we are not making any more updates” and that essentially sealed the deal. At this point we were half-way through the walkthrough and we knew where we were headed. Though we continued walking through the rest of the house.
As we continued upstairs to the 3rd floor the building supervisor accused my wife of “creating new items” that were not on the initial punch list. As you may imagine that comment didn’t go over well. My wife responded “That’s interesting because I have video of all the items from both previous walkthroughs and if you want me to go downstairs and get my phone I can show you the video.” The supervisor responded “No you don’t have to do that” because he knew he’d been caught in a lie. After being pegged the supervisor commented, with a voice of frustration “I can’t be here all day watching people, I have other projects going on as well”. It seems like Lennar either has their supervisors on too many projects or that this guy didn’t really care about providing us a quality home.
As we reached the outside of the house I asked the supervisor about the mud that was on the fascia board above the garage. I called this out to them on the very first walkthrough over a month ago. The supervisor said they weren’t able to get it off. While we were going through the walkthrough a painter had arrived. The painter was Hispanic and I asked him in Spanish if it was possible to get the mud off. He went and grabbed his ladder, climbed it, and took 3 minutes to wipe the mud off. It was that simple. This action essentially meant that in 2 weeks’ time the supervisor hadn’t even attempted to wipe the mud off or had anyone see about it and then lied about it. That was at least 2 lies within an hour from the Lennar crew.
At the “end” of the walkthrough the supervisor asked me “Well what do you think?” What I thought was that the fact that they rushed us through the walkthrough, told us to stand 5 feet away from walls, got caught in multiple lies, and didn’t seem to care about the things that concerned us represented a surface level signal to a much more deeply rooted problem. And that problem was that Lennar wasn’t serious about not closing until we were happy and they weren’t serious about fixing the house. Ultimately they Lennar team knew we wouldn’t buy the house with the issues it had and they also knew they weren’t going to fix them. Consequently any time they spent with us was wasted time and wasted money. It was as if they wanted to hurry and get us through the process so they could start over a new buyer.
By this point in time we had already put down earnest money on the house and even transferred the down payment to the lawyer’s office. We were supposed to do the walkthrough in the morning, sign a release accepting the condition of the house, and close on the home the next day. It was down to the wire. We left without signing papers and told the Lennar reps we needed to think about some things. Of course everyone knew what was happening. The Lennar reps told our agents that they would refund us back the earnest money should we decide to withdraw the offer. This was a sign that they knew they were in the wrong.
We thought long and hard about the home. It was a nice floor plan, in a nice area, and a seemingly nice community in the making. However, we just didn’t feel good about things. You know that uneasy feeling you get in your stomach that’s always an indicator that you’re fixing to mess up… yeah that’s the one we had. The main things that led to our decision to withdraw were the poor quality home (the hump in the floor being number one), Lennar personnel rushing us through the walkthrough, and also getting mixed messages from Lennar throughout the process. They didn’t do a good job at building credibility and good will with us throughout the process.
At least for us, when considering making a large investment such as this, we wanted to feel good about it and have a sense of trust in the company with which we’d be doing business. We didn’t have that feeling and felt that we’d lost faith in Lennar by the time we got to the end of the process. As you just read it had not been easy to get the builder to take care of the items they guaranteed us they would take care of before buying the house… so needless to say, we didn’t have much faith in them coming back to fix things after they had our money.
I will give Lennar credit on the refund. They did refund us the earnest money we had put down on the house. By their paper work, which was heavily slanted towards them, they didn’t have to technically give us our money back. Though, I feel like they knew the house was not quality and thus they instantly agreed to refund us the earnest money. This was one of the few areas in which I’ll say they did right by us.
While my mom was a flexible and gracious host (thanks mom!), her home is about 50 miles from where we planned to live and where my wife works. The logistics were difficult to manage in this stressful time, so we decided to rent an apartment closer to the area we hope to live. As we looked for apartments we visited 3 apartment complexes that were brand new and still being built. This area of town is rapidly growing and thus there are houses, communities, and apartments going up everywhere. As my wife and I visited these apartment complexes I still had the flaws in the home we just backed out of in my mind. As we walked around I wasn’t so much paying the apartment representative attention as I was more so examining door casings, hardiplank implementations, observing where there was and wasn’t caulk, paint consistency, and the overall quality and craftsmanship of the buildings. And as you would imagine, there were things that were done differently than what we had just experienced with Lennar. For example, the caulking of vertical seams of the hardiplank, the same areas that the Lennar builders had just told us that didn’t need caulk. There also were no whistling air conditions, dents in door casings, door casings left completely without paint, paint in the carpet, stair “skirt” boards with dents in them, etc. The list could go on, but the point is that the quality was much better in the apartments we were reviewing than the house we’d just backed out of. After the apartment reviews I knew we had made the right the decision even though it was going to cause us more stress in the short term.
During this process we incurred several costs. We had to pay for the home inspection, movers, I’m still paying on the storage, we had nice gas tabs for our commutes, now we’re paying on an apartment, and the major cost was the inconvenience in time. Rescheduling furniture deliveries with multiple furniture companies, with movers, and with the internet installer all added up to make this a “fun” process.
The experience was unfortunate for both my wife and I and I believe for Lennar as well. We really did like the community, the floor plan, the lot, and the area of town. I believe that Lennar knew the specific house wasn’t well managed from the start and they knew the hump in the floor was an item they weren’t willing to fix because it would eat into their profit margins. I think once they recognized that we wanted something structurally updated with the house they just wanted us to hurry and withdraw our offer because they knew they weren’t going to get down to the foundation and fix it. The longer they kept us around the more money they were losing. In taking this stance they showed their true colors and literally left money on the table. I’m sure they will sell the house, but I’m also sure that house will have problems down the road.
So the process has been unpleasant, but tucked away in the frustrations and disappointments are great lessons to be learned. We learned what “problem areas” to look for when buying a house. We learned the signals and body language from home builders when things aren’t quite right. We learned about the core principals, ethics, and organizational character with which Lennar operates. We learned more about the house buying process in general and are better off for it in the long run. It was like a 3 month education on house buying. I would rather be displaced and incur stress in the short term in exchange for having a problematic house in the long run. Sure it’s not fun, but it would be even worse a few years from now if we had purchased that house.
The Lennar reps statement of “You won’t close until you’re 100% happy” still holds true and it is true because we will close on another house, with a different builder, in a community just up the road when we are 100% happy.
Well now that this is all over and we are heading back to the US soon so I guess I better round my web page up. When I first came here I didn't know what to expect, but the guys on the team made the transition easy. I would like to give some special shout outs to Enes, Rio, and Mikko for taking care of Marlon and me many times when it was out of the way for them.
During my time over here I have definitely seen some things that I would not have had the chance to see at home. Does that mean I'm cultured? No matter what was going on we were always cracking jokes and having a good time.
It's weird how things get sometimes when you are isolated from all the people you've known your whole life, all the food you are use to eating, the music you are use to hearing, the language you are use to hearing others communicate in, and even the small things down to the signs that you are use to seeing. It's just you and...you. I believe things happen for a reason though and I think that God allowed me to come here for several reasons. Who knows what would have happened if I had ended up in the town of Pori. Many times I had a lot of time to myself and I even read the same book twice, when I wasn't surfing the net. That was " The Purpose Driven Life " by Rick Warren and if you haven't read it then you should. It will make you look at things very differently. When you are isolated like that you find out whats important to you and find out which friends will keep in touch. Marlon and I have also always had our needs met and have never lacked anything. We may not have liked how the food tasted, but it was food. I have my faith in Jesus above and he protected us and kept us safe and content while we were here and so I'm thankful. I would have never thought that I would come here and win the national championship and set the national td pass record and not ever throw an interception and have the type statistics that I ended up with. If you would have told me that before I came I would have told you that you were crazy. However, I can't take all the credit because I had the best core group of receivers in the league and the line was getting it together by the end of the season. Is this where I give a shout out to my Offensive cooridnators P. Haatsa and Ninikowsky? hahaha, no seriously Haatsa and Ninikowsky helped me out a lot and made it easier to understand what was going on, not to mention the millions of heart to hearts that haatsa gave me. So I think the trip here was a divine appointment and I'm glad that I caught the plane or I would have missed out on several things as you can see.
So during 3 months USA has captured the national title in Spades ( a card game), Dart throwing, Sauna sitting, & Football, while Finland only won one title which was in beer drinking.
I'm going back now and will try to get on a team somewhere. Hopefully something will work out, but if not life will go on. If for some reason there are some tailbans on the plane just know that I will die before the plane goes down cause Marlon and I will try to re-takeover the plane. If any of you would like to get in touch with me then you can email me at luqb[at]hotmail.com. Also with the financial aid of Mikko Virolainen I'm thinking of starting the first He'sburger in the US. He promised me that if we won the championship that he would do it, so now he has to be a man of his word. If you want to get in on it then send me an email and some Euros.
Thanks to all of you at home that emailed, called, sent packages and did anything to encourage me over here and thanks to all of the people over here that looked out for us during our time here. Keep in touch and go Trojans. It was a great summer to be a Trojan and I never got to ride the " Queen of Pori ".