A Great Moment in Craigslist History

Our new furniture is ideal for football-watching, pizza-eating and hangover-outlasting. Come one, come all, couch surfers!

My girlfriend and I completed step one of three in Operation: Dog Acquisition yesterday. After weeks of scouring Craigslist, Beth found a brilliant living room set that included a couch, a loveseat and an ottoman, all for $200.

Better yet — we bought it from a well-intentioned bachelor who lives in a cozier part of town and for him, the transaction was about freeing up space for new furniture and nothing else. He originally posted for $500, so by the time we paid him, he was just happy to be done with the ordeal.

You should’ve seen where we went on Sunday. Beth found another nice couch/loveseat combination, so we headed over to East St. Paul. The owner had promised she had no pets and didn’t smoke. The furniture had some tears in the seams, but at $80, we were willing to overlook. We arrived at the seller’s residence, a seedy triplex that looked like three double-wide trailers soldered together by an 11th grade shop class. Think: Crack den chic. Upon entering, we were hit by the smell of stale smoke. There was an ashtray on the coffee table filled to the top with Swisher Sweets remnants. I know this because there was a Swisher Sweets box right next to the ashtray. Deal: Off.

Maybe we watch a little too much Intervention, but my assumption is people are selling their goods on Craigslist for one of three reasons:

  1. They are moving and not taking furniture with them.
  2. They bought new furniture and want the old stuff gone.
  3. They want drug money.

I don’t think those three reasons are necessarily inaccurate. They matter, too. Each individual reason dictates the quality of the product, the ease of the sale and, most importantly, peace of mind.

Beth and I sold a couch and a bar table on Craigslist before moving away from Portland. We made $70 on the table and $150 on the couch, and while that put us at a loss compared to what we originally paid, we made a little cash and didn’t have to worry about disposing of our stuff. Not to mention some nice people purchased some quality secondhand furniture from a young couple whose hands were tied. And no point did they have to wonder if the couch had bed bugs or if we were off to Corvallis to score some meth.

In cases where furniture is clearly being sold for drug money, you have to wonder what that poor furniture has been through. What’s slipped between its cushions? What’s been swept underneath it? What type of resin or smoke has it absorbed? What and who has happened upon it? Don’t kid yourself — furniture keeps a history. Never purchase furniture you’d be terrified to shine a black light upon. That’s the most important axiom for Craigslist shoppers, I think.

Unfortunately, our new furniture dwarfs my 32-inch TV.

Our purchase yesterday couldn’t have gone smoother and we’ve enjoyed our new furniture all the more knowing it came from a clean, happy home. After Sunday’s debacle, I implored Beth to raise our budget a bit and only consider buying from nicer neighborhoods. (My logic being wealthy people more often purchase new furniture on a whim, so they’re less concerned about recouping on old furniture.) What began as a search for dog-friendly furniture resulted in the type of furniture any guy would be happy to have in his man cave.

So, step one is done. Next: Pay the $200 nonrefundable deposit. The hope is we’ll pick up Cooper/Olive (TBD) Thanksgiving weekend, thus changing our lives — and this blog – for the foreseeable future.

Kanye, Cam, Snow, Trader Joe’s, and a Doodle Update

I'm so short on time this morning, I'm going with this completely arbitrary image I found Googling "minneapolis snow."

It’s 8:10 a.m., my girlfriend’s parents are staying at our place right now and I’ve got to leave for work in a half hour. I’ll be honest — I’ve got nothing. I’m surprised this doesn’t happen more rarely with me trying to write 500-word posts five days per week.

So, pardon the scattered nature of this post, but here’s what’s on my mind:

I caved and downloaded the leak of Kanye West’s new album My Dark Beautiful Twisted Fantasy. It’s a clean version, which matters. You wouldn’t just cut 10 percent of Maya Angelou’s poetry and expect it to read the same. Nonetheless, all of the perfect reviews are dead-on. Rob Sheffield of Rolling Stone gave the album five stars (out of five): “[West] goes for the grandeur of stadium rock, the all-devouring sonics of hip-hop, the erotic gloss of disco, and he goes for all of it, all the time. Nobody halfway sane could have made this album.”

***

The Twin Cities area is expected to get 5-8 inches of snow on Saturday. Most of it will melt by Monday, but it’s safe to say winter is here. That’s a pretty significant snowfall, too, especially when you spent last winter living somewhere where three inches does this:

***

With allegations of Auburn quarterback Cam Newton demanding money to sign with a school and Kentucky freshman Enes Kanter being ruled ineligible for receiving improper benefits while playing pro basketball overseas, the NCAA finds itself at a crossroads. I would love to say cut all college athletics, but that’s unfair to the 99 percent of athletes who follow the rules, as well as though who wouldn’t be able to afford school without their scholarship. The biggest problem is cash-strapped state schools are relying way to heavily on their athletic programs to generate extra revenue. That’s exploitation. It’s time we consider giving athletes stipends.

***

Earlier this year, I wrote about giving in and finally shopping at Trader Joe’s. What I wouldn’t give to live within two blocks of one, as we did in Portland. Trader Joe’s has become our primary grocery store, especially now that my girlfriend has gone gluten-free and dairy-free. (To combat her allergies, not because she’s becoming a hipster.)

For those of you who’ve never shopped at Trader Joe’s, below is a list of items you must try. And let me just murder the myth — Trader Joe’s is NOT expensive. All of the items below are $2-$5, and I swear, if this is what my diet was solely comprised of, I’d be a happy man:

Chipotle Salsa — $1.99

Mandarin Orange Chicken - $4.99

Edamame - $1.99

Go Raw Trek Mix - $4.69

Charles Shaw wine - $2.99

***

A quick labradoodle update: Our landlord gave us permission to get one. All we need is a $200 non-refundable deposit. We’re still looking for puppy-friendly furniture on Craigslist. Finally, we spoke with a breeder in South Dakota. A doodle will cost between $600-$800, depending on size, gender and color. That’s a setback. We’re certainly open to adopting one, but they’re nearly impossible to find in the Twin Cities-area. So, for now, we’ve established a Labradoodle Fund. We’re throwing spare change and cash into a coffee can until we can afford everything. If you’re interested in donating or know of an adoption center, e-mail me at atmiller14@gmail.com.

The Latest Episode in Our Attempt to Acquire a Dog

See where we're coming from? Look at this thing.

As I wrote a few weeks ago, my girlfriend and I desperately want a dog. I assume that’s typical of a couple 20-somethings whose idea of a wild Saturday night is making to the Weekend Update segment on SNL.

In our last episode, we were looking at a German wirehaired pointer, but that breed simply grows to be too big. We’d done a pretty good job purposely forgetting about getting a dog until we were at lunch with my grandma the other day. She encouraged us to do so, because if nothing else, the dog we were considering adopting may be put down. Our hearts sank. We recommitted to getting a dog. (We also found out the Blue Earth Nicollet County Humane Society has a no kill policy.)

As we resume our search for the perfect dog, we face the following dilemmas:

  1. Cost. Always a concern and everyone we know has warned us of the hidden costs of pet ownership.
  2. Permission. We haven’t been given the green light by our landlord, but the bigger concern is our …
  3. Wood floors. We live in the bottom floor of a duplex. Our neighbors above us have a pomeranian-papillon mix that weighs no more than 15 pounds, but they also have carpet, so scratching isn’t a concern.
  4. Furniture. A friend let us use her furniture when we moved in and she’s asked for it back should we get a puppy. Understandable. No one wants puppy urine dried up on their furniture, especially when it’s someone else’s puppy. So, new furniture — nothing Craigslist can’t fix.

Kix was born Aug. 29 at Cowpound Kennel in Peever, SD.

Our breed du jour is the labradoodle. A coworker has recommended a breeder in Peever, SD, which is about an hour from where my girlfriend grew up. My coworker implored me to say I’m from South Dakota and not the Twin Cities to get a better rate, which makes me feel more like I’m buying contraband or black-market weapons, not a harmless puppy.

The upside: Labradoodles can be hypoallergenic, which is critical for my girlfriend. And just look at that puppy. Makes me want to wear a wool sweater with a labradoodle stitched on it. Is that so wrong?

Of course, getting a labradoodle entitles you to join the Cult of Labradoodle Owners. I’ve done some unofficial polling to determine labradoodle owners are more obsessed with their dogs than any other breed’s owners. It’s awesome and terrifying, but most importantly, great blog material. Is it sad I’ve ignored all the hang-ups of dog ownership for the fact it might just be good topic matter? I could be a crazy dog blog guy. That’s a good look.

We’re shifting things around and trying like hell to make this happen, and soon.

Stay tuned.

Election Day 2010: Don’t Overlook the Grey Areas

I have little to offer on Election Day 2010. I won’t implore you to vote, because that’s your decision and I’m sure there’s many real-life reasons you may not. However, if you’re invested in a race or a candidate or you simply feels its your civic duty, go vote. Celebrate democracy.

One thing, though: Be an informed voter. You know you don’t have to fill in every bubble on the ballot. School board, city council, state legislature — those offices often affect our day-to-day life more than congressional elections. Don’t vote based on party alone, and that goes for the whole ballot. Know exactly who and what you’re voting for.

If I vote today, I’m voting for an Independent gubernatorial candidate, Tom Horner. My conservative grandmother always warned I’d turn Republican once I got past college and entered the real world. I’m still a registered Democrat, very much a liberal, but with maturity, I’ve started looking at issues more pragmatically. Maturity makes you respect grey areas. As Democrats and Republicans continue to stretch an already gaping divide, the grey area from issue to issue has become more apparent. Not everything is as simple as conservative or liberal. That’s why we need a third party in our political system. That’s why I’d be happy to vote Independent.

Fat chance politicians will lead the way in ending partisan nonsense, so maybe as voters, we should shy from straight-ticket voting and give each and every race for which we vote a good, honest look. I’m hard-pressed to believe my views align 100 percent with any politician I’ve ever vote for, but in good conscience, I’m willing to overlook some differences in opinion as long as we agree on the right issues.

What are the “right” issues? The issues that truly inform your political beliefs. I believe each of us has a handful of top tier concerns, while the rest of our beliefs often just fall in stride with our party’s. For instance, I support the Second Amendment, but feel their should be a ban on handguns and assault weapons. However, that takes a backseat to my beliefs surrounding education, health care and gay marriage. A candidate’s stance on the Second Amendment wouldn’t necessarily sway my vote one way or the other.

What am I saying, albeit poorly? Be open-minded. Be pragmatic. Acknowledge the grey area. Don’t let voting be as simple as finding the “D” or “R” next to a candidate’s name and don’t be afraid to leave bubbles unchecked. The only thing worse than not voting is casting an uninformed vote.

Now is not the time for voting blindly.

In Minnesota, Melancholy Isn’t a Mood — It’s a Lifestyle

It’s 8 a.m. The streetlights are still on as the sun has yet to rise. Why should it? Why waste a sunny day as we Minnesotans wallow in our swelling melancholy?

The Vikings fell to 2-4 last night after losing 28-24 to the Green Bay Packers. Quarterback Brett Favre was — again — the storyline. He threw three interceptions that led to 14 points, effectively ending the 14-month honeymoon for Vikings fans like yours truly. Another season of wonder has turned to blunder.

This bleak feeling has become all too familiar of late, where on the local scene mediocrity has become the standard:

  • The Minnesota Twins? Swept from the playoffs by the Yankees.
  • The Minnesota Gophers? 1-7, already on their second coach of the season.
  • Brock Lesnar? UFC heavyweight title lost to Cain Valesquez after a first-round TKO Saturday night.
  • The Minnesota Wild? 3-3-1, but honestly, I had to look that up. I’m not a hockey fan.
  • The Minnesota Timberwolves? Their season doesn’t start for a few days, so right now, they’re the best team in town.

Last season, I was living in Portland as the Vikings stormed through the regular season and into the playoffs. I was back home for losses to the Chicago Bears and Carolina Panthers, so all told, the Vikings were 13-3 in games I watched 1,700 miles from Vikings territory. Last night, I got to thinking — would I rather live far from Minnesota and see the Vikings win or live here and see them lose?

Still undecided.

Misery loves Minnesota sports. It’s Monday morning agony like this that defines Vikings fan experience. We’ve gotten used to losing, or, as used to it as one can get. Still, you have to wonder what it was like living in a place like Boston the past decade. In the aughts alone, they saw their New England Patriots win three Super Bowls, their Boston Red Sox win two World Series and their Boston Celtics win an NBA title. A Minnesota pro sports franchise hasn’t advanced to a title game, no less won a championship, since 1991 when the Twins won the World Series.

We’re the punchline and the punching bag.

Last night, I tweeted, “So, how about that Minneapolis arts scene?” What I meant was we, as a fan base, should probably look beyond sports for joy. I know it’s a hard transition, but season tickets at the Guthrie Theatre must be cheaper than season tickets at Target Field. As foodies and provincial microbrew drinkers already know, there’s plenty of fine establishments where you can get full and get a buzz for the price of nachos and a Coors Light at a Vikings game. Here’s a bonus: When an artist snaps a photo of his penis, it’s just art!

That’s not going to happen though. You and I will go on in hopeless support of our fledgling pro franchises, just as anyone with Stockholm syndrome would. The highs will be high, the lows will be low, but failure will find us like a shock collar the moment we’ve wandered too far from reality.

Go on in gloom this Monday, which should be nothing other than dark, cold and miserable. What could be more befitting of the Minnesota sports fan experience?

Tough Sell? Timberwolves Use Groupon for Season-Opener

The Minnesota Timberwolves kick off their 2010-2011 season next Wednesday, and though many expect this year’s team to double their win total from the previous season, tickets sales are low. Like, really low.

So low that today, the Timberwolves offered a limited number of discounted tickets through Groupon. Fans can get tickets for the Oct. 27 home-opener against the Sacramento Kings or the Oct. 29 tilt against the Milwaukee Bucks for as much as 61 percent off face value. Awesome if you’re a fan, but really, really bad news if you work in the Timberwolves’ front office.

As local sports talk radio personality Dan “Common Man” Cole would say, the Timberwolves are a terrible team with terrible players and terrible coaches and a terrible front office that play in a terrible league in a terrible facility with a terrible fan base in a terrible city. OK, the Twin Cities are cool, but the Timberwolves are trailing at a distant fourth among the local pro sports teams and the Minnesota Lynx of the WNBA can’t be far behind them. As for the rest of the tangent:

Terrible team — This isn’t an opinion, but a fact. Let’s look at the team’s recent history. (Note: I feel bad calling the current squad terrible because there’s been so much turnover each season the past five years. Seriously, college programs see more continuity.)

2005-06 – 33 wins, 49 loss (4th in Northwest Division; 14th in Western Conference)
2006-07 – 32-50 (4th in Northwest; T-12th in Western)
2007-08 – 22-60 (4th in Northwest; 13th in Western)
2008-09 – 24-58 (4th in Northwest; 10th in Western)
2009-10 – 15-67 (5th in Northwest; 15th in Western)

Not to knock anyone’s five-year plan, but even if the T-Wolves double last year’s win total as fans and pundits so optimistically hope, they’ll still fall behind the 2005-06 squad. Ouch.

Terrible players – OK, that’s harsh. The T-Wolves will have the league’s youngest team, led by – gulp – former No. 2 overall pick Michael Beasley. Beasley’s been disciplined for off-the-court behavior and spent time in rehab. I’m hard-pressed to imagine the parent who wants their eight-year-old wearing a Beasley jersey to school.

There’s not a single player with All-Star experience on the roster. However, Darko Milicic and Kevin Love could make up one of the more intriguing front courts in the NBA. Darko, the No. 2 pick in the vaunted 2003 NBA Draft, has one last chance to save his career. Love helped Team USA earn gold at the Pan-Am Games over the summer and has the personality to be loved, Kevin Garnett-style, by the fan base.

Terrible coaches – Great group of coaches … if this was 1988 … and they were still players:

Timberwolves head coach Kurt Rambis won four NBA titles. As a player.

Assistant coach Bill Laimbeer won two NBA titles. As a player.

Assistant coach Reggie Theus never won an NBA title, but he did wear a bitchin’ mustache. As a player.

Fun fact that won’t necessarily lead to success: All three of the above-listed coaches have extensive comedic acting experience. So, clearly they’re qualified to coach the T-Wolves. Theus was most memorable:

Terrible front office – I hate to throw the whole front office under the bus. So, Terrible general manager. David Kahn’s been comically bad since taking over personnel decisions:

Terrible league – I could go 35 different ways with this one, but I’ll resort to one simple fact: Since 1980, 30 NBA titles have been shared by just eight teams. Seven times, the title has been won by the same team in consecutive years. Compare that the most successful pro sports league, the NFL, where 15 teams have shared the last 30 Super Bowl championships, only four teams have won consecutive titles and no team ever won three in a row. Parity, people. The NFL has it. The NBA does not.

Terrible facility – The Target Center is just 20 years old and its relatively cozy at 20,500 seats. But, sit anywhere outside of the $100 seats and you’d confuse Shaquille O’Neal for Earl Boykins. The place lacks intimacy and it’s way too spread out:

Barring another Groupon deal, that’s probably what the place will look like on game night come February.

Terrible fan base – There’s just one thing you’ve got to realize, devout Timberwolves fans. (That’s you, Eric and Steve.) Minneapolis is cold in the winter. You know that. So, if I’m Big Name Free Agent Guy and I’ve got the choice between South Beach or Minneapolis for roughly the same pay, I’m taking the climate and tax shelter and going to Miami. That we had a player of Kevin Garnett’s ability was a miracle. The fact we conned him (Kahned him?) into a second contract is one of the finest deals a pro sports franchise has ever pulled off.

We drafted Kevin Garnett. We drafted a shit ton of other terrible players before and after that. We’re never going to sign Big Name Free Agent Guys unless they’re getting the chance to play alongside a Kevin Garnett. (Not a Kevin Love.) So, loyal fan base of two, quit your bickering about poor trades and never signing the big catch, because the reality is the Timberwolves will live and die by the NBA Draft as long as Minnesota winters are cold and quit lamenting the Kevin Garnett era. He gone!

Terrible city – Again, that’s not true. Twin Cities, we have every reason to be skeptical of this ball club. We suffer enough heartbreak between the Vikings, Twins and Wild. Maybe that’s all the more reason to jump on the Timberwolves bandwagon. We know to keep our expectations low and hell, it’s one of the cheapest tickets in town.

So, hop on Groupon today and get your Timberwolves tickets on the cheap. And besides, catch game one or two and you might just get the rare chance to see the home team with a winning record. For once.

Newspaper Endorsements No Longer Matter. Or Do They?

History has given us a plenty of reason to question the newspaper industry's clairvoyance.

I served as editor-in-chief of my college newspaper during the 2005-06 school year. The following year, my successor decided he’d had enough after the fall term, so I was brought back for the Spring 2007 semester. I spent some 18 months as the editor of a newspaper and not once was my paper forced to make a political endorsement.

Not that any newspaper really is. Still, it’s a strange tradition that carries on; the editorial board, hardly representative of any newsroom’s entire staff, gathers to decide which candidate their newspaper supports. It’s a process happening now and in the coming weeks in Minnesota. In fact, many of the state’s biggest publications have already endorsed Independent gubernatorial candidate Tom Horner.

I love everything about newspapers, even though I’m a Twitter-checking, iPad-toting, RSS Feed-reading information consumer. I started reading the Argus Leader (of Sioux Falls, SD) when I was around six years old. The Argus is notoriously conservative, as is most of South Dakota. If newspapers are influential, how is it someone who became a daily reader at such a young age would go on to become a big, stupid liberal like myself?

Because I didn’t care about the political leanings of the Argus Leader’s editorial board. I suspect very few people did or do. For all the good a newspaper provides a community, I think readers maintain an intellectual detachment, a blanket of skepticism and a take-it-with-a-grain-of-salt resolve. Endorsements aren’t influential. Endorsements are fodder for political ads and debates. The Duluth News Tribune will not persuade my vote this year. Will it persuade yours?

A few years ago, Froma Harrop penned a rather snide commentary for Rasmussen Reports, roundly supporting newspaper endorsements. Harrop argued — with a fair amount of evidence — that newspaper endorsements are most effective when they support candidates outside their perceived political affiliation. For example, when the staunchly conservative Chicago Tribune endorsed Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama in 2008, it was a big deal. Readers took notice. Readers were (probably) influenced.

“For newspapers, there’s something gratifying about these studies and surveys and even the arrows shot their way by bloggers and cable partisans,” Harrop wrote. “Go ahead and ‘diss’ the print journalists as pterodactyls of the ‘Mainstream Media’ … People still get hopped up over what they think.”

Apparently, he’s partially right, because here’s another blogger shooting arrows at the construct.

This year, selecting from the three Minnesota gubernatorial candidates is like choosing from an in-flight menu — go with whatever seems most palatable. I’m voting Horner and it doesn’t have a damn thing to do with the newspaper endorsements. I’m happy he’s garnered the support of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the Duluth News Tribune, the Fargo-Moorhead Forum, the Bemidji Pioneer and, seemingly, the Mankato Free Press, but that has nothing to do with my vote.

Do newspaper endorsements still matter? That all depends on how impressionable a voter is, I guess. Personally, I refuse to be influenced politically by something that prints comic strips, crossword puzzles and horoscopes.