To do this weekend

I’ve got one of the busiest weekends coming up I’ve had in a long time. So I decided I need to do more.

Already on the plate:

Friday
S has a library sale thing till 9 PM, so I’ve got the kids

Saturday
Company party from 1:45 till 4:00.
My oldest’s birthday party from 5:00 till 6:30

Sunday
Church in the morning
Sunday school class party at lunch
Raising boys film series in evening

To Do:
Check flashlights, get new batteries if needed
Fix dripping kitchen sink, needs new o-ring
Buy birthday ice cream cake.
Buy 2 liter bottles: a coke, a diet coke, and 2 DPs
Buy 9 volt batteries
Buy AAA batteries for kids
Buy Warcraft III Frozen Throne expansion
Buy another gift from us parents if I can think of one.
Assemble bookshelf
Check BOB, will need S’s help on this.

You know that doesn’t look so bad. I ordered them in the order I’m going to try and get them done. The first few are all go buy things. No real problem there. Might even be able to do them all at WalMart. OK looks like the cake will require a second trip, but nothing major. Home Depot is next to WalMart so if I can disassemble the faucet and get the o-ring I should be able to make a quick stop there.

Written while listening to “You Can Still Be Free”
album Affirmation
by Savage Garden
Written while listening to “The Animal Song”
album Affirmation
by Savage Garden
Written while listening to “Chained to You”
album Affirmation
by Savage Garden
Written while listening to “The Best Thing”
album Affirmation
by Savage Garden
Written while listening to “Angel”
album Surfacing
by Sarah McLachlan

Surviving a power outage.

Reading a woman’s account of getting out of the subway and going home in NYC made me think. I’d thought about it earlier today when I heard they were without water in some places.

We have a storage of water that would probably last a couple of days. We buy these Diet Ice Botanical things at Costco by the case. When we finish them we fill them with water. We keep a bunch in the fridge because we like to have water bottles, but we’ve also filled a couple of the cases over time and just have them stored. There is a limit to how long you can store tap water.

We have flashlights in every room. They should all have fresh batteries. Probably should check them. Especially the boys, they have a tendency to actually use the flashlights.

But we need 9 volt batteries. The fire alarm is out downstairs. Has been for a couple of weeks, and I haven’t gotten 9 volts to replace the ones I took out to make it stop beeping. Also bought a new answering machine that needs a 9 volt to keep settings when the power is disconnected and we don’t have any. Need to get some this weekend.

I also have an AM/FM/Shortwave radio in my bedside table that I haven’t used in at least a year, but it would probably be the only radio we’d have working if the power went out. Ought to check its batteries too.

Don’t have this woman’s survival kit with money though. I know that is important. May need to do that.

We do have bug out bags, which in our case is a backpack in the garage with clothes and stuff in it. Also have some water, food and a first aid kit in my car’s trunk. Flashlights and a knife in each car too. Need to go through the BOB and make sure things are up to date. Been so long the kids clothes probably don’t fit any more.

Written while listening to “Just Go Ahead Now”
album ^a
by Spin Doctors
Written while listening to “Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong”
album Pocket Full of Kryptonite
by Spin Doctors
Written while listening to “Kiss Me”
album Sixpence None the Richer
by Sixpence None the Richer

Making others happy

I was reading Tales from a Yeti Suit and followed a comment to a post by a woman named ho on how to have a successful relationship.

Firstly when ever someone claims to have the key to doing something, you should check their results. In this case ho tells us how to have a successful relationship just over a posting on how her husband doesn’t make her happy. If you aren’t being made happy in a relationship, it isn’t successful. I realize that is a generalization. You could be unhappy because of non-relationship factors, like your spouse has cancer and is dying. Or the relationship isn’t based on your happiness, like with your banker…no I want happiness there.. like with your doctor…no I want happiness there. Mmmm…maybe all relationships are successful only if they make you happy. Hopefully you want the other person to be happy too.

That being said I posted this comment that I thought good enough to repost here.

ho, you may be making a basic mistake when trying to make someone else happy. You have to find out their rules for happiness, and not just assume your rules work for them.

Your rules are fine, and a lot of guys would love to do them for you. But apparently your husband has a different set of rules. You need to find out what those are.

Probably he’s bloging somewhere how you are always so demanding of affection, nagging him for attention all the time and then expecting him to fawn over everything you do. And all he wants is you to iron his shirts or let him have some time to himself.

There are no hard and fast rules for what makes people happy. You have to go ask them. Then you can decided if you want to do those things. Giving him what you want may no work.

Hopefully if you find out what he really wants and do it he will want to find out what you really want and do it for you.

Given my own rules for taking advice I guess I should show I have a good relationship with my wife. She could post here and say how wonderful I am if she wants. S and I have the best marriage of anyone we know. We are happy with each others company. We have lots of sex. There is little or no jealousy in our relationship. We don’t have big yelling screaming arguments, being able to deal with problems in calmer ways. I care about her being happy too much to keep doing things that piss her off, and she cares about my happiness too much keep doing things that piss me off.

Its hard to quantify what makes a good marriage. Basically both sides need to be happy and content.

Guess I should point out these ideas aren’t original to me. Steven Covey has them in Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and calls to concept of making others happy an Emotional Bank Account. Tony Robbins also mentions this in some of his books, even going on to say everything we do is because we want to be happy. We have to figure out our own rules as well.

Written while listening to “She Drives Me Crazy”
album The Raw & The Cooked
by Fine Young Cannibals
Written while listening to “Haunted”
album ^a
by Evanescence
Written while listening to “My Immortal”
album Origin
by Evanescence

Baching it

The Mrs is out of town this weekend for a writers conference and Science Fiction convention. The boys are staying with the in-Laws tonight and tomorrow night. So what is a man alone to do? Curl up with a good book?

Don’t think so.

Unfortunately I don’t have any male friends to go out seeking entertainment and trouble….So I’ll have to do it alone.

Written while listening to “Just Like A Pill”
album Missundaztood
by Pink

WWDC

Well I haven’t blogged anything this week because I’m at Apple’s World Wide Developers Conference in San Fransico. While airport networking is suppose to be ubiquitous it has never worked for me, and I’m now using an ethernet collection.

The conference has been OK. The G5’s are obviously impressive, but not something I’m going to be able to afford for quite some time. There are some additions to the Cocoa frameworks that look really cool, but I end up wondering how I’m going to use them if I want to stay compatible with Jaguar.

They seem to have a thing against colas, something with sugar and caffeine. They started showing up last night and seem to exist today so maybe there is hope.

As you can tell I’m not on Atkins and I just don’t care. I’ll worry about my diet next week.

Negotiating with the Taxman II

I fought the law and the law…well lost.

Learned a lot about the appraisal process. First off HCAD doesn’t care what you say, they are just going to use their computer program to calculate the value of your house. But the good news is the Appraisal Review Board is made up of three regular citizens.

Here it is in chronological order.

We got there early. Mainly because it took a lot less time to get to the building than we thought. You go up to the third floor and there is a room with a bunch of chairs and a reception type desk where you sign in. I went ahead an got my parking ticket validated when I signed in just so I wouldn’t have to come back. The room probably had 100 chairs in it and was full at 2:30. My wife, youngest son and I went and sat on the floor in the hallway.

After about 40 minutes of waiting an appraiser named Osh called out our name and we went to our informal meeting. The first thing they do is make you say how much you think it is worth. I said $130,000. (Remember the current appraisal was $140,000 and they wanted $157,00). Then you present your evidence to the appraiser. I showed all the stuff I mentioned in yesterday’s post.

Osh says the air conditioning is maintenance and doesn’t count. Then he pulls out the recent sales list and pick three different comparisons based on semi-random looking at square footage. He enters it in the computer and gets a new estimate, $144,000. He then says we can take it or we can go to the board. He mentions that the board is made up of 3 homeowners and they generally side with the homeowner, but that we would have to start from $157,000 and not $144,000 he’s offering us.

We discuss it and you really feel like just taking it to avoid a “hearing”, which sounds scary. Finally I decided to go with the board. Osh was a little surprised. He’d already told his computer to print out the agreement forms. Which tells you most people take what they are given here.

Back out into the waiting room, which has less people in it and we are able to sit down. While sitting there the wife is looking over my print outs and tells me I calculated the home value in my comparisons to sales wrong. I had used the previous sales amount for the home value. Frantically we try to change the values. I get out the laptop and start changing the spreadsheets. The one that averages all the comps would take too long, but the one that just uses the ones they gave us was done pretty quickly. So we start writing the new values on each copy. Had gotten through most of them before they called us.

We walk back to the hearing room. Its a small room with tables in a T. At the head of the T are three older people with nothing in front of them. On one side of the bar is an HCAD representative. You sit on the other side. The board introduces everyone, and then they asked if my wife was going to speak. I say I want her to have the option and they give me the affidavit I’d signed before with Osh that says everything I said was true. She has to sign it too.

The board members were very friendly and helpful, explaining everything. Then they give me a chance to present my evidence. I tell them about the average of everyone on my streets appraisal, the average of the HCAD comps. Point out the other thing I had given Osh was wrong. Then I tell them about the air conditioning, showing them the estimate and pointing out how much inadequate AC impacts the salability of a house in Houston. Then I show them the pictures of where our siding is rotting.

The board asks a number of questions. Mostly about the AC and the siding. They also asked about the price we bought for and what upgrades were included in that price.

Then the HCAD guy gets his say. He first asks when the pictures were taken, and I say “Last night”. Then he says we had a remodel this year. Got to love computers. Get a permit from the city and it shows up in the appraisal district’s computer. We say it was for two interior doors and we also had the roof fixed. Then the HCAD guy goes through the list of comps, pick two Osh did and another one and make a new estimate. Can these guys do anything other than plug comps in to the computer? Any way he recommends $143,000 to the board. Did I mention he had a really strong Jamaican accent and I couldn’t understand a lot of what he said, because he mumbled most of it?

Then they let you have your say. I say basically his comps don’t take into account the condition of the house.

The three members of the board confer amongst themselves, while I lean over to the wife and ask her what the Jamaican guy said our value was. I’m keeping one ear open and hear the lady who is the forman of the board say, “I think we should take the recommendation of HCAD and knock off some for the condition.” The others agree.

In an official voice they say they are setting the value of the house to $138,000. Which is lower than it is now and much lower than what they wanted. We chat a little with the board asking how they ended up here. One guy said its like jury duty.

Looked up my tax bill online and refigured my taxes for the year and figured our savings.

At $138,000 we will pay $3,711.91 in property taxes this year. Includes county, city and school district.
At $157,000 we would pay $4,309.80, so we saved $597.89.
At the current $140,000 we pay $3,774.85, so we save $62.94 over last year.

So we went a spend most of our tax savings eating dinner at Saltgrass Steakhouse.

Written while listening to “Ever Fallen In Love”

album The Raw & The Cooked

by Fine Young Cannibals
Written while listening to “Cup of Coffee”

album Beautiful Garbage

by Garbage
Written while listening to “Drive You Home”

album Beautiful Garbage

by Garbage
Written while listening to “Sweet Child Of Mine”

album ^a

by Guns n’ Roses
Written while listening to “I Wanna Love You Forever”

album ^a

by Jessica Simpson
Written while listening to “Deconstruction”

album Become You

by Indigo Girls

Negotiating with the tax man

Today I’m going down to the Harris county tax assessors office to contend they have valued my house to highly for tax purposes. It will be interesting to see how it goes. You are suppose gather evidence why your appraisal is wrong. Then first you present it to an assessor in a one on one thing. If you still don’t feel satisfied you go before a three person board and make your case. There are two ways to contest, first you can say it isn’t equal or you can say it isn’t market value. I’ve kind of done both.

I’ve looked up the appraisals of everyone on my street, figured the average per square foot value and used that to calculate my value which is $33,000 less based on square footage and lost size. Found out in the process I’ve got the largest house on the street and the smallest lot.

Secondly I took the three comparison houses they used and figured their average price per square footage. That lowered us almost $22,000. Don’t know where they got their value. They give you a break down, but they have lots of added costs that don’t seem to correspond to anything.

Lastly I figured the price per square foot for the last 10 houses sold in our neighborhood, and used it to calculate our cost. Again down $10,000.

Too top off all of this we had an air condition company come out and give us a estimate to make our AC actually cool our house. $10,000. And we have the siding on our house deteriorating, which we photographed, but didn’t have time to get an estimate.

Wish me luck

Written while listening to “Story Of A Girl”

album American Pie

by Nine Days

Weird Al and GNUTella

Going on a road trip this weekend to see my family in Arkansas, which means the boys will be spending 8 hours in the car, so I decided I should make them a CD. Currently they like 3 songs, Love Shack (B-52s), Who Let the Dogs Out (Baha Men), and If I Had $1,000,000 (Bare Naked Ladies).

Given the theme running through these songs I decided they needed to be introduced to Weird Al Yankovic. One of my co-workers is a fan so I’d listened to some of his stuff via iTunes sharing. I used Acquisition to get on GNUTella and searched for Al. Got back a bunch of songs which weren’t his, but were labeled as his. Seems on file sharing networks if it is a parody it’s by Weird Al. There is even a site that tells you about what song aren’t Weird Al.

Ended up with this list:

Couch Potato – Weird Al Yankovic – Poodle Hat
Complicated Song – Weird Al Yankovich – Poodle Hat
Trash Day – Weird Al – Poodle Hat
Fat – Weird Al Yankovich – Even Worse
Hardware Store – “Weird Al” Yankovic – Poodle Hat
Ebay – Weird Al Yankovic – Poodle Hat
Ode To A Superhero – “Weird Al” Yankovic – Poodle Hat
Eat It – Weird Al Yankovich – “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC IN 3-D
It’s All About The Pentiums – Weird Al Yankovic – Running With Scissors
I Want A New Duck – Weird Al Yankovic – Permanent Record- Al In The Bo
Polkamon – Weird Al Yankovic – Pokemon the Movie 2000- The Power Of One
Amish Paradise – Weird Al Yankovich – Bad Hair Day
I Ran Over The Taco Bell Dog – Adam Sandler
Cows With Guns – Dana Lyons
Who Let the Dogs Out – Baha Men – Promo Only Mainstream Radio Ju
Smells Like Nirvana – Weird Al Yankovic – OFF THE DEEP END
Jurassic Park – Weird Al Yankovic
Star Trekkin – The Firm
Living La Vida Yoda – Weird Al Yankovic

Written while listening to “These Days”
album PromoOnly Mainstream Radio-Jul

by Jennifer Paige
Written while listening to “Nightingale”
album Come Away With Me

by Norah Jones
Written while listening to “All I Wanna Do”
album Tuesday Night Music Club

by Sheryl Crow