House


house_well-11(NOTE: This post is an updated copy of my 2013 post [see also: 201220112010,  2009,  2008])

(Check our your property value using the official Fairfax county link.)

THE BASIC SUMMARY: Our real estate assessment grew 5.1888% — more than it has 8 out of the 14 years we’ve lived here. I guess things are back on track?. A 5.18884351% increase , which is a less than the average of yearly gains (7.3% a year on average, as of 2014), but way more than last year’s 0% increase. This would be a better than average year if the ridiculous bubble in 2004-2005 didn’t artificially inflate the average.

Our house went up 10.00183% — the most since the addition.
Our land stayed at the same value.

Our real estate value increased $1,365 a month. Our mortgage is currently about $1090, and includes all taxes & insurance. It’s almost like we’re getting paid $275 to live here, but then I remember this house comes with other associated costs: Electricity, internet, home warranty, trash, water/sewer, and maintenance.

In 1999, we bought the house at  $141K.
In 2000, we  were  assessed  at  $142K.
In 2001, this  grew   by 3.5% to $147K.
In 2002, this  grew   by  39% to $205K.
In 2003, this  grew   by   3% to $211K.
In 2004, this  grew   by  24% to $261K.
In 2005, this  grew   by  34% to $349K.
In 2006, this  grew   by  13% to $395K. [addition basically complete]
In 2007, this  grew   by   3% to $406K  (peak)
In 2008, this dropped by   7% to $375K. [addition officially complete]
In 2009, this dropped by   3% to $364K.
In 2010, this dropped by  18% to $298K. (ouch)
In 2011, this  grew   by   3% to $307K. (Finally a gain!) 
In 2012, this  grew   by  ~3% to $316K.
In 2013, this remained        at $316K. (Hmm...)
In 2014, this  grew   by   5% to $332K. (back on track)

We’re 18% down from our peak value. (But not 22% like last year, or 37% like 4 years ago).

We still owe $131.8 on our mortgage [2013/12=$133.9K/$136.1K].

The house is worth 2.52X more than we owe on the mortgage (2013/12/11: 2.36,2.32,2.27).

In 2014, we owe about $2100 less than we did the prior year. That is how much principal was paid this year. [2013=$2000. 2012=we owed $700 MORE than the prior year due to refinance costs to get a $260/mo cheaper mortgage payment].

So we are still ahead (“ahead” means “assessed value minus what is owed on the mortgage”) by $200.5K (2013/12/11/10=$182.0,179.8,171.7,163K).

Our gain in getting ahead was $18.4K this year ($1538/mo), which was greater than previous years’ gains (2013/12/11=$2.2,8.1,8.7K).

We’ve lived here 14 years now [actually 15--next year I will use the right number of 16! All my numbers have always been slightly off!], so that’s a running average of getting $14,318 ahead each year. This running average had been declining, but is now gaining: 2013/12/11=$12,997/14,903/15,609.
Per month, that is $1193 ahead each month, for all months that we’ve lived here. [2013/12/11=$1083,$1249$1300]. Considering that we took $30K out of the house to pay for an addition, that’s a pretty good rate of return.

Our mortgage is now up to $1058.76. (2013=1025 after refinance,2012=1300), so this place seems to literally be paying for itself: It’s value goes up more each month, on average, over the entire time we’ve lived here… Than how much we pay each month!  Well… Not counting those “associated costs”, anyway.

(Of course, the addition wasn’t free, it was about $80K, so we’re really only $120.5K ahead (2013/12/11=$102.0/99.8/91.7K), or only $8,604 ahead per year (2013/12/11=$7,283/$8,317/$8,336), or only about $717  (2013/12/11=$606/$693/694) ahead each month. Still not shabby.))

These people who say houses aren’t a good investment don’t know what they’re talking about. Even if it’s value drops 90%, you’re still getting 10% more of your money back than if you were renting! And we’re sure as hell doing better than dropping 90%… We’re getting double our money back, assuming value holds.

We also have way more living space than people who pay the same amount: 2500 sq ft @ 1025/mo = 42.35 cents per square foot per month [2013=41]. Renting space in D.C. is often paying 3X as much per square-foot-month as what we are paying. And that’s with no yard or parking.  It’s amazing how much more you can get when you don’t demand every little thing be perfect.

Here’s the new graph:

2014 real estate assessment graph

2013′s graph:

2012′s graph:

2011′s graph:

More:

Broken down via land vs. building:

LAND:
2000: $71K
2001: $71K
2002: $90K (+27%)
2003: $100K (+11%)
2004: $150K (+50%)
2005: $184K (+23%)
2006: $166K (-10%) [addition completed]
2007: $166K
2008: $184K (+11%)
2009: $166K (-10%)
2010: $148K (-11%)
2011: $148K
2012: $152K (+2.7%)
2013: $152K
2014: $152K

BUILDING:
2000: $71K
2001: $76K (+7%)
2002: $115K (+51%)
2003: $111K (-3%)
2004: $111K
2005: $165K (+49%) [addition possibly counted here]
2006: $229K (+39%) [addition completed]
2007: $241K (+5%)
2008: $192K (-20%)
2009: $198K (+3%)
2010: $150K (-24%)
2011: $159K (+6%)
2012: $164K (+3%)
2013: $164K
2014: $180K (+10%)

FOOTNOTE: 2006 was about when the construction was mostly finished, but due to problems with it being completely finished, it might not have been legally counted as finished until 2008.

RANDOM NOTE: The Google Chart Playground is very, very useful. Saves a lot of manual page refresheses…

Mood: did not want to type this up the day I re-installed windows!
Music: GWAR!!

THE END

Here’s a story. The time I may have almost died. You see, we didn’t know that the boiler had to have its chimney swept from time to time, just like a normal fireplace chimney.

house_gutter-51

must also be cleaned from time to time

One night, I was sleeping downstairs. The year was around 2001 or so.

20051008 - camping rained out again - party at Clint & Carolyn's - 100-0029 - Stacy, Clint passed out

this story happened about in this exact spot here

The music that is normally playing 24/7 in our house stopped.

I awoke to the beep of a carbon monoxide detector going off. It took awhile to wake me up.

I woke up, and the house was full of smoke. Sick, choking fumes. Burning heating oil (which is the same thing as diesel truck fuel).

Freaked out, opened up the door, ran upstairs and turned the thermostat down so the boiler would turn off. Possibly used the emergency cut-off switch (red light switch), but probably not.

20051113-party-downstairs-1513

This is the room I was in (sans addition), and it was about this smokey.

We had to call a chimney sweep and have them service our boiler’s chimney before we could use it again.

And the reason I heard the carbon monoxide alarms? Simple: The smoke had gotten thick enough to obscure the laser on the CD player.

house990204Mvc-634fboiler

angry old boiler from 1930s wants you fucking dead

In fact, the CD player never worked right again. Not Carolyn’s 100 disc changer, not my 200 disc changer. Best Buy fucked me on the warranty too, refusing to replace it on the 4th repair by retroactively declaring the three previous repairs to simply be cleanings. $400 CD player + $30 warranty, and it had only lasted 4 or so years.

199811 - Clint's room - before moving out - hardware stuff - b4c7

This seems to be my only picture of my 100-disc changer, which is the bottom black component on the huge stack of hardware on my TV here. I think the VCRs are the only things still alive in 2010 (when I wrote this post).

This experience saved me some money. I permanently stopped patronizing Best Buy, except for that time I did something that profited me and screwed them. Can’t say what it is. I permanently stopped buying CD players. I decided I’d never purchase a standalone hardware player again. This experience is ultimately what moved me to mp3s.

And mp3s? Way more rewarding than CDs. You actually get statistics, you get instant access to everything, you get amazing playlists. Nine years later, I’ve finally created the proper programs, infrastructure, systems, and best practices to get the most out of my mp3s. It took a decade, but I got used to doing things the mp3 way. I now feel I have more control over what I listen to than ipod users, or even other people who have mp3s. Explaining the whys and hows would be kind of boring.

But anyway, out of the ashes of our boiler’s stinky oil smoke, rose a new way of doing things. We have a heat pump now, too. This story can never repeat itself–for multiple reasons.

20081231 - 2008 music graph - top 15 - OVERVIEW / LESS DETAIL - 2wk - min zoom

only possible with mp3s -- you can't do this with analog music listening habits. No automatic data logging!

(more…)

house_well-11(NOTE: This post is an updated copy of my 2012 post [see also: 20112010,  2009,  2008])

(Check our your property value using the official Fairfax county link.)

THE BASIC SUMMARY: Our real estate assessment stayed the same. No up or down. To. the. dollar. That’s fishy. Seems like perhaps values went down slightly, but Fairfax County wanted to keep the tax revenue going. A 0.00% increase (house went up 0%, land went up 0%), which is obviously less than the average of yearly gains (5.8% a year on average, as of 2 years ago), and slightly less than last year’s 3% increase. Our house value increased $0 a month. That would make this the 4th worst year for our investment return, and the worst return of the last 3 years as well. But we’re still way ahead.

In 1999, we bought the house at  $141K.
In 2000, we  were  assessed  at  $142K.
In 2001, this  grew   by 3.5% to $147K.
In 2002, this  grew   by  39% to $205K.
In 2003, this  grew   by   3% to $211K.
In 2004, this  grew   by  24% to $261K.
In 2005, this  grew   by  34% to $349K.
In 2006, this  grew   by  13% to $395K. [addition basically complete]
In 2007, this  grew   by   3% to $406K  (peak)
In 2008, this dropped by   7% to $375K. [addition officially complete]
In 2009, this dropped by   3% to $364K.
In 2010, this dropped by  18% to $298K. (ouch)
In 2011, this  grew   by   3% to $307K. Finally a gain! 
In 2012, this  grew   by  ~3% to $316K.
In 2013, this   remained      at $316K.

We’re 22% down from our peak value. (But not 37% like 3 years ago)

The house is still worth 2.36X more than we owe on the mortgage (2012=2.32X,2011=2.27X).

We still owe $133.9K on our mortgage [2012=$136.1K].

In 2013, we owe about $2000 less on our mortgage than we did the prior year. [2012=we owed $700 MORE than the prior year due to refinance costs].

So we are still ahead (assessed value minus what is owed on the mortgage) by $182.0K. (2012=$179.8K, 2011=$171.7K, 2010=$163K).

However, our gain in getting ahead was only $2.2K this year, far less than previous years’ gain in being ahead. (2012=$8.1K, 2011=$8.7K).

We’ve lived here 13 years now, so that’s a running average of getting $12,997 ahead each year. This running average has been declining: 2012=$14,903,2011=$15,609.
Per month, that is $1083 ahead each month. [2012=$1249,2011=$1300] ahead each month.

Our mortgage is down to $1025 from  $1300 (refinanced), so this place seems to literally be paying for itself: It’s value goes up more each month, on average, over the entire time we’ve lived here… Than how much we pay each month!

(Of course, the addition wasn’t free, it was about $80K, so we’re really only $102.0K ahead (2012=$99.8K,2011=$91.7K), or only $7,283 ahead per year (2012=$8,317,2011=$8,336), or only about $606 (2012=$693,2011=$694) ahead each month. Still not shabby.))

These people who say houses aren’t a good investment don’t know what they’re talking about. Even if it’s value drops 90%, you’re still getting 10% more of your money back than if you were renting! And we’re sure as hell doing better than dropping 90%… We’re getting double our money back, assuming value holds.

We also have way more living space than people who pay the same amount: 2500 sq ft @ 1025/mo = 41 cents per square foot per month. People in this area (inside the D.C. beltway, or inside D.C. itself) are often paying rates 3-4X as much per square foot month.

Here’s the new graph:

2012′s graph:

2011′s graph:

More:

Broken down via land vs. building:

LAND:
2000: $71K
2001: $71K
2002: $90K (+27%)
2003: $100K (+11%)
2004: $150K (+50%)
2005: $184K (+23%)
2006: $166K (-10%) [addition completed]
2007: $166K
2008: $184K (+11%)
2009: $166K (-10%)
2010: $148K (-11%)
2011: $148K
2012: $152K (+2.7%)
2013: $152K

BUILDING:
2000: $71K
2001: $76K (+7%)
2002: $115K (+51%)
2003: $111K (-3%)
2004: $111K
2005: $165K (+49%) [addition possibly counted here]
2006: $229K (+39%) [addition completed]
2007: $241K (+5%)
2008: $192K (-20%)
2009: $198K (+3%)
2010: $150K (-24%)
2011: $159K (+6%)
2012: $164K (+3%)
2013: $164K

FOOTNOTE: 2006 was about when the construction was mostly finished, but due to problems with it being completely finished, it might not have been legally counted as finished until 2008.

RANDOM NOTE: The Google Chart Playground is very, very useful. Saves a lot of manual page refresheses…

Mood: did not want to type this up the day I re-installed windows!
Music: GWAR!!

THE END

I created a command, “after month”, that would edit a text file; I then created calendar reminders to remind me to edit that every month. The result is that I now can look back in my life and have a textual sense of what each month was like. Pictures are great, but there are lapses in pictures, and I shall be keeping text summaries as well from now on.

In addition, so that the post is not “dry” and pictureless, I will include graphs of my music listening habits for the year as well.

ALSO: Summary of our yard sale stats for the year.

(more…)

So… I let Thompson Creek talk us into replacing our bedroom overhang windows, as well as adding a gutter back to where one fell off our house. What they didn’t tell me at signing was what they told me later: The way your roof edge is set up, your gutter won’t work as well as it could, because of this:

window, living room (rear) - from outside - IMG_3685 (20111014)

That is the chimney to our old oil boiler, which has not been fired up since 2003 or so, and is no longer connected to most of the house. Here is another picture of it:

roof view, back - it's a long way down - old boiler unused chimney - IMG_3082 (20110615)

So anyway, they said we should really remove that and get the roof fixed before putting the gutters on. But of course, Thompson Creek doesn’t do this type of work. I’m a little pissed off that they didn’t tell me this until after I’d agreed to the job, because it was already just over $3,000, and this ended up raising the total price of the job by $575 (~19%).

But this review isn’t about Thompson Creek; it is about the Virginia Roofing Companies that we solicited for this job. And it is most specifically TO WARN THE PUBLIC AGAINST SAM AND SONS SERVICES, LLC, OF VIRGINIA, and their estimates that can only be described as exhorbitantly high. They gave us an estimate for $5600. We ultimately paid $575 for the work (plus $25 to fix a soffit ripped open by varmints). Sams And Sons estimate was ~869% higher than the $575 job ! $5025 more than what we had to pay! ASSHOLES!

Can you imagine the poor people who say yes in this situation? The Sams And Sons estimator actually asked me if I inherited my house. What kind of question is that? After the estimate, I realized: People who inherit (and thus did not work and earn) their houses are less likely to know the value of a dollar (beucase they didn’t actually earn the dollar to buy their house), and are more likely to be taken advantage of. The Thompson Creek sign in my yard probably didn’t help either, as their windows are NOT the least expensive. In fact, they are on the higher end of what you pay for vinyl windows. (And one of the 3 windows being replaced is 88 inches wide.)

So anyway, FUCK SAM AND SONS of Alexandria, Virginia 22312 (703-256-8080). I’ve added a YELP REVIEW to that effect, which was also posted to twitter.

Below the job are the specific notes on all the companies contacted:
(more…)

house_well-11(NOTE: This post is an updated copy of my 2011 post [see also: 2010,  2009,  2008])
(Check our your property value using the official Fairfax county link.)

THE BASIC SUMMARY: Our real estate assessment went up again, from $307.1K to $315.9K. A 2.85% increase (house went up 3%, land went up 2.7%), which is less than the average of 5.8% yearly gains, and slightly less than last year’s 3% increase. Our house value increased $730 a month (and our mortgage is only $1025 now that we refinanced).

In 1999, we bought the house at  $141K.
In 2000, we  were  assessed  at  $142K.
In 2001, this  grew   by 3.5% to $147K.
In 2002, this  grew   by  39% to $205K.
In 2003, this  grew   by   3% to $211K.
In 2004, this  grew   by  24% to $261K.
In 2005, this  grew   by  34% to $349K.
In 2006, this  grew   by  13% to $395K. [addition basically complete]
In 2007, this  grew   by   3% to $406K  (peak)
In 2008, this dropped by   7% to $375K. [addition officially complete]
In 2009, this dropped by   3% to $364K.
In 2010, this dropped by  18% to $298K. (ouch)
In 2011, this  grew   by   3% to $307K. Finally a gain! 
In 2012, this  grew   by  ~3% to $316K.

We’re 22% down from our peak (but not 37% like 2 years ago), and it’s still worth 2.32X (2011=2.27X) more than we owe on the mortgage (which is $136.1K, actually about $700 more than last year due to rolling our refinance costs into the mortgage).

This means we’re still $179.8K ahead (2011=$171.7K, 2010=$163K). We’ve lived here 12 years, so that’s $14,903 (2011=$15,609) ahead each year, $1249 (2011=$1300) ahead each month. Our mortgage is down to $1025 from  $1300 (refinanced), so this place seems to practically be paying for itself.

(Of course, the addition wasn’t free, it was about $80K, so we’re really only $99.8K ahead ($91.7K in 2011), or only $8,317 ($8,336 in 2011) ahead per year, $693 ($694 in 2011) ahead each month. Still not shabby. These people who say houses aren’t a good investment don’t know what they’re talking about. Even if it’s value drops 90%, you’re still getting 10% more of your money back than if you were renting! And we’re sure as hell doing better than dropping 90%!)

Here’s the new graph:

2011′s graph:

Broken down via land vs. building:

LAND:
2000: $71K
2001: $71K
2002: $90K (+27%)
2003: $100K (+11%)
2004: $150K (+50%)
2005: $184K (+23%)
2006: $166K (-10%) [addition completed]
2007: $166K
2008: $184K (+11%)
2009: $166K (-10%)
2010: $148K (-11%)
2011: $148K
2012: $152K (+2.7%)

BUILDING:
2000: $71K
2001: $76K (+7%)
2002: $115K (+51%)
2003: $111K (-3%)
2004: $111K
2005: $165K (+49%) [addition possibly counted here]
2006: $229K (+39%) [addition completed]
2007: $241K (+5%)
2008: $192K (-20%)
2009: $198K (+3%)
2010: $150K (-24%)
2011: $159K (+6%)
2012: $164K (+3%)

FOOTNOTE: 2006 was about when the construction was mostly finished, but due to problems with it being completely finished, it might not have been legally counted as finished until 2008.

RANDOM NOTE: The Google Chart Playground is very, very useful. Saves a lot of manual page refreshses…

Mood: suddenly less dissatisfied with unemployment
Music: NOT Megadeth - Tornado Of Souls

THE END

I created a command, “after month”, that would edit a text file; I then created calendar reminders to remind me to edit that every month. The result is that I now can look back in my life and have a textual sense of what each month was like. Pictures are great, but there are lapses in pictures, and I shall be keeping text summaries as well from now on. Also included will be my graphs of music I listened to, because all text is kind of boring. (more…)

So… After you’ve had a house for awhile, Homeowner’s Insurance companies will snoop around your property with a camera, taking pictures to use as an excuse to drop your policy. This has happened to us twice now. Progressive is the one who just dropped us, though they farm their homeowners insurance out to Homesite, so they are the ones really to blame.

Painting the window sills? Really? They don’t want moisture-related claims. But as I’ve always understood it, homeowner’s insurance is NOT a maintenance plan, but accident coverage. If you don’t maintain your windows, and something happens because of it, it’s negligence, not an accident. The windows they complained about are on the old side of the house where we don’t even keep anything valuable – the cost of everything in our living room (front door room) probably totals less than $50. (Of course, the replacement value is higher.)  That little bit is insulting, and it’s a lot of work to repaint our window sills. We’re going ahead and totally replacing one of our windows — at a significant cost. Thing is, they only give 30 days. It’s really not enough time. So now we get to play the game of “take photos and post them and beg for them to keep us”. After all, we went with Progressive/Homesite because they had the best price!

We also had to remove the vines from our house. Most of them were dead, but the live ones – they were good to get. We had a kudzu stalk that had grown all the way up a gutter to our roof! Nothing like standing 2 storeys up on a ladder anchored on a hill with some cinderblocks, reaching up and grabbing dead vines with a pair of 2 foot “old people reaching tongs”. Times like these I’m glad some rope from the emergency tarp put on our roof around 2005 is still hanging up there – it gave me something to grab other than siding trim and window sill edges. Glad I’m not afraid of heights.

But the real issue is the trees. They don’t want trees touching your roof. We do have a big dead limb over our roof — connected to a HUGE twin white oak tree in our side (left when facing the house, right when facing out of the house) yard. There’s also a small tree in the back that we left there on purpose after our addition was built, in order to grow a root system into the soil to keep it from eroding away. Our addition is on piers – the soil really needs to remain intact, y’know.

I first looked up some articles on how to self-estimate: Ehow article 1 // Ehow article 2

I then asked all homeowners I know via email for recommendations. Following that, I did a Google Local search for “Tree removal near [MY ZIP CODE]“. Ultimately, I called *seventeen companies*.

So we decided to get estimates for:

  1. Removing the dead limb (“lead”) from the oak tree over our roof.
  2. Removing the next two highest up limbs from the same tree — simply to keep the problem from creeping up any time in the next 10 years.
  3. Removing the small pine tree in the back of our addition.

Not included is the small stuff — I did what I could with a sickle, then went back and did what I could with a hatchet, then bought a pole saw on Amazon for $86 to do the intermediate stuff (too hard to do with existing tools, too small to hire a company for). The pole saw is what Ash from Army Of Darkness wishes he had – a chainsaw at the end of a polearm, instead of a chainsaw at the end of his arm.

Anyway, here is our report on our estimates, so others can know who to bother calling first. We shall list this in order from cheapest, to most expensive, to those who did not ever even give us an estimate:

  1. $600. The Care Of Trees. 703-922-8733. Alexandria, VA. The best price we had. I had to call the central office to get a VA contractor license number (2705134904A), and they checked out. They even offered to do our minor trees for free, but I declined.
  2. $700 ($550+$250). Precision Tree Services. 703-593-4406.
  3. $870 ($695+$175). Savatree. 571-282-2500. Savatree.com.
  4. $915. Northern Virginia Tree Experts, Inc. 703-471-7607. Chantilly, VA. Recommended by my cousin Emily’s husband Chris. They were unable to give a window for an estimate, so they were unable to bother coming while I was here (even though I only left the house to eat).  I tried to make it known I needed to be there to point out the specific work to be done, but because they couldn’t give a window, they ended up having to come out twice (2 days later for the 2nd one). Not impressed with that aspect.
  5. $920 ($600+$320). Originally $1150 ($750 + $400), but they let me know there’s a 20% off special). Richard’s Tree Service. 703-354-3667. Annandale, VA. This estimate included debris removal even though I tried to make it clear that I don’t want my debris removed.  They were, however, the only company that provided a copy of their liability insurance up front. Bonus point.
  6. $975. AAA Tree Services & Landscaping. 703-719-0600. 5419 Oakwood Road, Alexandria, VA 22310. – I seem to have lost their estimate. I feel bad because I slept in and missed the first appointment (that’s why I say to call me first!), and during the 2nd appointment the guy seemed like a really cool skydiving mustached badass, the type you’d want at your back  in a dark alley during a brawl. But I have  no clue where the estimate went. I’ve got to be the worst customer ever for making them come twice and not even having the estimate! Argh! I’m slapping myself! I guess this is why I prefer email estimates to paper estimates. I found their estimate behind some furniture about 5 months after I posted this. I immediately knew it would be the lost estimate! Glad I finally found it. One unique thing that I liked about their estimate was that it specified the equipment and personnel: 1 truck, 0 cranes, 2 climbers, 4 groundsmen. I don’t think anybody else gave that info.
  7. $1000 ($750+$250). Stump Jumper. 703-356-0027.

Another estimate that is hard to compare because of a different scope:

  1. $2035 ($1785+$250+$565[not counted toward $2035 total]). Barlett Tree Experts. 703-550-6900. It’s a bit unfair to include them in the above list. The higher price is because the scope of work for this one estimate is considerably more. The middle number – $250 – for the pine tree out back – is comparable (though a bit on the high side compared to Savatree and The Care Of Trees). The $565 is for an additional tree out back that we decided not to remove. The remaining number, $1785, is to remove more than just the 3 leads – to remove everything so you can look up and see the sky. I have a feeling if the scope of this estimate was limited to be identical as #1-#5, that their price would fall within the same range, but probably on the higher side. I did email them to let them know of  The Care Of Trees $600 estimate, but they replied that they didn’t think they would be able to beat that price. No hard feelings.

Companies where I talked to a human, but they ultimately dropped the ball:

  1. Economy Tree Care. 703-497-6588. Woodbridge, VA. I’d actually used these guys before!  We’d paid them $350 tree around our power line, back when the hurricanes in the mid-2000s came and messed a lot of things up. I remember talking to the nice lady with a thick accent several times. She went out of her way to learn to say my name right and everything. Yet I guess an estimate never happened, despite us talking. I don’t know what happened. It could have been my fault – but as someone who wants my money, the onus is on them to keep calling me. They send me junk mail every year, and when I finally try to act on it – it doesn’t happen.
  2. Richard’s Tree Service. 703-354-3667. 7213 Poplar Street, Annandale, VA 22003-3011. I talked to answering service. They later called me back but I wasn’t there. I called them back and they said James will call to make an appointment. That call never happened. Or if it did – they did not leave a message on our answering machine. I am surprised how many companies miss out on an opportunity to compete simply because they are unwilling to leave a message. Especially when a company employs an answering service: You’re saying that *I* need to leave *you* a message, but *you* won’t leave *me* one? Either that or they just never called.
  3. G & V Tree Services Inc. 703-569-2570. Guy seemed very clueless. I waited for a callback and never got one.

Companies where I never even got to talk to a human being:

  1. Absolute Tree Inc. 703-969-6207. Left message with all my details – they never bothered to call back.
  2. C & W Landscaping & Tree Trimming. 703-671-9574. 3407 Haven Place, Falls Church, VA 22041-1704. Another answering machine/service company that never bothered to call back.

Company that made appointments but couldn’t keep them and couldn’t even tell if they had happened or not:

  1. Gatling Tree Service & Landscaping. 571-283-4990. Least professional company ever. When I called, there were a bunch of people in the background carrying on, talking loudly. The guy had to put me on “hold” (listening to everyone talk and laugh) for 2 minutes to find a pen & paper. When I said my name, I had to spell it. I was too fast and had to spell it even more slowly. He was unable to pronounce it right, despite having written it. (While my last name is hard, and a good 25% of people have problems with it, most people can remember it after having it spoken to them.) They couldn’t make an estimate on a specific day – simply “sometime between now and saturday”. To my knowledge, nobody came. I got a call a week later. They still couldn’t pronounce my name — but this time it was so bastardized I actually thought it was a wrong number (first time ever). He had to ask me if someone came, and I told him nobody had come, and I’d already selected someone else. They don’t even know if an estimate has been made. They don’t even know if one of their own employees made it out there. Do not deal with Gatling Tree Service.

house_well-11 [NOTE: This post is an updated copy of my 2010 post, which itself was an update of my 2009 post, which was a copy of 2008, which had tons of comments relating to how Fairfax County seemed to change its assessment forumulas, flipping more of people's value from their house to their land.] [Check our your property value using the official Fairfax county link.]

THE BASIC SUMMARY: Our real estate assessment finally went up again, by 3% (less than the average of 8.5% yearly gains), to $307K. At least we’re back on the right track again.

In 1999, we bought the house at $141K.
In 2000, we were assessed at $142K.
In 2001, this grew by 3.5% to $147K.
In 2002, this grew by 39% to $205K.
In 2003, this grew by 3% to $211K.
In 2004, this grew by 24% to $261K.
In 2005, this grew by 34% to $349K.
In 2006, this grew by 13% to $395K [addition completed].
In 2007, this grew by 3% to $406K (peak).
In 2008, this dropped by 7% to $375K*.
In 2009, this dropped by 3% to $364K.
In 2010, this dropped by 18% to $298K. (ouch)
In 2011, this grew by 3% to $307K. Finally a gain!

We’re 24% down from our peak (but not 37% like last year), but it’s still worth 2.27X more than we owe on the mortgage ($135.4K, the same as last year really).

This means we’re still $171.7K ahead (we were $163K ahead last year). We’ve lived here 11 years, so that’s $15,609 ahead each year, $1300 ahead each month. Our mortgage is only about $1300, so this place seems to practically be paying for itself. (Of course, the addition wasn’t free, it was about $80K, so we’re really only $91.7K ahead, $8336 ahead per year, $694 ahead each month. Still not shabby. These people who say houses aren’t a good investment don’t know what they’re talking about. Even if it’s value drops 90%, you’re still getting 10% more of your money back than if you were renting!)

Last year’s graph:




^^^^

Broken down via land vs. building:

LAND:
2000: $71K
2001: $71K
2002: $90K (+27%)
2003: $100K (+11%)
2004: $150K (+50%)
2005: $184K (+23%)
2006: $166K (-10%) [addition completed]
2007: $166K
2008: $184K (+11%)
2009: $166K (-10%)
2010: $148K (-11%)
2011: $148K

BUILDING:
2000: $71K
2001: $76K (+7%)
2002: $115K (+51%)
2003: $111K (-3%)
2004: $111K
2005: $165K (+49%) [addition possibly counted here]
2006: $229K (+39%) [addition completed]
2007: $241K (+5%)
2008: $192K (-20%)
2009: $198K (+3%)
2010: $150K (-24%)
2011: $159K (+6%)
(more…)

Cleaned my attic today. I actually spent like an hour sharpening my sword, sickle, and shears, with the intent of using the newly sharpened sword to kill whatever the fuck it was digging around in our attic last night. But I never found it. So I cleaned the attic instead… For posterity:

Monitors are all to the right of the HVAC … including putting weight over a hole that may or may not be used by raccoons

radiator-space-heater is on top of the HVAC …

chain link fences are on top of each other by the edge instead of splayed out in the middle …

random pieces of wood are moved around so as to cover holes better ..

worklight we got at yardsale is up there now, and solving the can’t-see-in-the-secondary-attic problem quite well … I used one of the light-socket-to-plug adapters that was in the media room to make that happen

… couple boxes decomissioned, notes taken so i can update catalog …

… took whiteboard back downstairs to giveaway, don’t think i’m gonna be using it again ..

..got rid of some huge boxes we don’t need anymore – they were empty

… found a HUUUGE garbage bag full of bubble wrap. stuffed it into joists and such where raccoons had torn up insulation — insulation power(air bubbles) > insulation power(nothing), they do me more good there than in the trash….

… found some weird tool that’s kinda like a broom or mop handle or something, don’t know what it is, took it downstairs ..

..moved my transformers to a better box…

… put some more stuff downstairs, like my box of bart simpsons dolls. toying with the idea of hanging them all from a tree…

… gargoyles box o’ stuff up there you might want to take down, now at top o’ stairs..

..found some jewelry, all out of the box thrown everywhere, put it in a plastic bag, brought downstairs …

…. A/C freon line has lots of condensation, wood beneath it was rotting slightly, put scrap carpet under it to buffer moisture…

…threw away the pink stryrofoam things you staple up before putting insulation up, as they were mostly raccoon-destroyed

…. lots of open space now… (more…)

So I decided marshmallows go bad too easy, and the bag clips aren’t sufficient always.

I also decided to use jars more.

So I have this huge (1+G) pickle jar in my backyard filled with ammonia. It glew in the blacklight, and then I thought I’d break it and spill it, so I put it back there to prevent myself from doing that like 2 yrs ago.

So I throw the ammonia out today, to leave it outside and let it fill with rainwater for a few manual cycles. When it seems normall, I’ll run it through the dishwasher and manually clean it just to be sure.

Carolyn’s all like, “heheh, somehow I feel like I don’t trust the marshmallows in the ammonia jar….”

My justification?

“once it’s clean, it’s clean :) glass is what science uses!” (more…)

things that have died in the past 4 months:

  • my car [deer = fender, headlight, blinker, +$3000, -$200]
    20091206 - hit a deer - front left - big hole - GEDC0915
  • my car [tie rod, -$700]
    20100227 - Clint's car - tie rod broke - Clint's tires point in different directions - 0 - success edit
  • my car [tire, -$100]
    postcard - woman fixing car in garters - b39c3 (b&w)
  • my RAM [they're not honoring the warranty replacement because they claim it came from a 4G set, even though I never got 4G at once ever, -$80]
    20091212 - 1 - RAM failure - GEDC1106
  • my 1.5TB harddrive [only 6 months old, Western Digital Green drives suck]
  • carolyn’s car [headlights, -$10 so far, much more to come]
    20090620 - Artomatic - GEDC0129 - Carolyn's car's coolant casualty
  • carolyn’s mp3 player [-$47]
    20080113 - Chicago - 150-5010 - clock radio
  • carolyn’s motherboard [-$70]
    20071006-08 - building Hades - 139-3902 - motherboard (Abit IP35 Pro)
  • carolyn’s power supply [-$45]
    20071006-08 - building Hades - 138-3818 - power supply with MANY connectors
  • carolyn’s 120G harddrive
    20090118 - cleaning house - 175-7503 - harddrives
  • our house’s dryer [$-82 so far]
    20071030 - Beavis in the laundry room - 141-4155
  • our smallest TV, which I had since 1990ish
    20100214 - party aftermath - GEDC1538 - broken TV

(more…)

house_well-11 [NOTE: This post is an updated copy of the post I made last year, which was a copy of the post from 2008, which had tons of comments relating to how Fairfax County seemed to change its assessment forumulas, flipping more of people's value from their house to their land.]

THE BASIC SUMMARY: Our real estate assessment dropped again, by 18% (ouch!), to $298K. Biggest loss yet..

In 1999, we bought the house at $141K.
In 2000, we were assessed at $142K.
In 2001, this grew by 3.5% to $147K.
In 2002, this grew by 39% to $205K.
In 2003, this grew by 3% to $211K.
In 2004, this grew by 24% to $261K.
In 2005, this grew by 34% to $349K.
In 2006, this grew by 13% to $395K*.
In 2007, this grew by 3% to $406K (peak).
In 2008, this dropped by 7% to $375K*.
In 2009, this dropped by 3% to $364K.
In 2010, this dropped by 18% to $298K. Ouch. Biggest loss yet..

We’re 37% down from our peak, but it’s still worth 2.2X more than we owe on the mortgage ($135K), meaning we’re still $163K ahead.

Broken down via land vs. building:

LAND:
2000: $71K
2001: $71K
2002: $90K (+27%)
2003: $100K (+11%)
2004: $150K (+50%)
2005: $184K (+23%)
2006: $166K (-10%)
2007: $166K
2008: $184K (+11%)
2009: $166K (-10%)
2010: $148K (-11%)

BUILDING:
2000: $71K
2001: $76K (+7%)
2002: $115K (+51%)
2003: $111K (-3%)
2004: $111K
2005: $165K (+49%)
2006: $229K (+39%)
2007: $241K (+5%)
2008: $192K (-20%)
2009: $198K (+3%)
2010: $150K (-24%)
(more…)

Another nightmare I guess…. Dreamed I was standing in our main room upstairs, and the entire ceiling over by the bathrooms cracked. The house was about to fall apart while we were in it, and I woke up in a panic.

“Dreams… They’re the hurricanes that wash the soulfilth from the superdome of our nightminds.”
-Xavier:Renegade Angel
(more…)

house_well-11Last year’s real estate assessment was a big deal, even creating local headlines due to the way Fairfax County screwed up their calculations, as well as having over 20 comments to this effect on my blogpost. I ultimately took an 8% hit on my house.

But this year? Despite the prevailing market having a 12% loss in my area, I only took a 3% loss! Yay!!

2008 Assessment:
TOTAL: $376K
land: $184K (18516 sq ft)
building: $192K

2009 Assessment:
TOTAL: $364K
land: $166K [still worth $16K more than when I bought it]
building: $198K

Houses are supposed to depreciate, not gain in value… But mine gained in value from $192K to $198K, a 3% increase. Weird.
My land went from $184K to $166K, a 10% decrease.
But overall? Only a 3.12% decrease. Not too shabby compared to blue flyer they included with the assessment that said the average decline was 12.55%!

On paper, at least, this means I took less of a hit than everyone else, so I’m “winning”.

However… I wonder if I should challenge this. I challenged them last year and successfully got them to lower my value (less taxes). Should my house really have gone up? And the addition we built — that just confuses things even more, but it was supposed to have already been counted.

TAX CONCERNS:
RE: The Addition. A Kevin Moran of Fairfax County contacted me last summer and tried to get me to say how many bedrooms we had, and I refused, basically telling him that our building plans have been submitted to the county by Daniel M. Lopez of Virginia Design Builders, and that I lack the legal qualifications to determine what legally constitutes a bedroom for tax assessment purposes. I also told them I want them to get it right and don’t want to get hit with some back taxes due to them mis-classifying it, and I told them about the spiral staircase. He made the determination, in an email sent to me on 9/18/2008, that this would be counted as 2 bedrooms. He also said, and I quote, “Bedroom count has no impact on valuation by the appraisers. That is taken into consideration in the Sq. Footage. It s just a tracking item that is all.” He asked some other questions, and I responded back on the same day, giving him a JPG of the upstairs blueprint after the addition (the only JPG I had). I never heard from him since, so I hope this is okay.

EQUITY / NET WORTH:
The current balance on our mortage is $143,646.91, which means: $364K – $143K = $221K positive net equity on our house. Throw in our 401(k)s and savings account, and our net worth is somewhere around $250K-$275K. Though I expect that to go down as our 401(k)s continue to decline.

I also haver an $80K line of credit vs the house’s equity, will should still remain good, unless my house suddenly drops $100K in a year. That, plus my credit cards, add up to some $120K or so in credit limits, not counting Carolyn’s cars.

Basically, I’m pretty sure we can weather this coming economic crisis, unless things really tank badly next year. I’m already hearing that things may get better by 2010. It’s presented as bad news, but to me it’s good news. I waited out bad economic times after 911 (it added another year to my 2.5yr unemployment stint, basically), and I can do it again if I need to.

I’m not worried. I refuse to live in fear over macroeconomic fears. If the economy is so bad here… There are other places to go to make different kinds of livings, and we have the means to go there. But I still think this is the best place to remain for the time being. (more…)

As always, click through to comment on any picture individually on flickr, or to see the full-size…

So anyway… getting my granddad’s/parents’ wood art up was the hardest “picture” hanging of my life!  So… I must share in my misery. First off was the fact that it fit better sideways, so I wanted to convert the orientation from portrait to landscape. This also gels well with the societal trend towards widescreen…

20090124 - party prep - artwork - 175-7514-diptych-7515 - original back and mount - please click through to leave a comment on FlickR
original back and mount
We never would have guessed that this wood art made by my grandad (and repainted by my parents) would take THREE EVENINGS (3-5 hours?) to hang up.

The frame itself was virtually non-existent — since the whole piece is all wood, the frame cannot actually support the weight easily, unless the support is distributed. With normal frames, you can just screw a hook into the wood and it will stay. Here, it appeared shoe moulding had been used as an anchor.The problem is that we did not have any spare shoe moulding in the house, and wanted to put this up without having to go to Home Depot.

Big mistake:

20090124 - party prep - artwork - 175-7517-diptych-7519-tach-7518 - please click through to leave a comment on FlickR

Above is our first, failed attempt at converting it from portrait to landscape orientation.

The portrait orientation was done with shoe moulding glued to the frame (see previous picture), and screws put into that. I noticed that one of the bookshelves I got from freecycle had ONE remaining piece of moulding on it; all the rest had been long gone. So we thought we could use the bookshelf moulding instead of shoe moulding.

Big mistake! I tore it off with my hand, and cracked it in two without a saw. We then nailed the hell out of it into the frame, and put some picture hanging hooks into it. EPIC FAIL. Nothing like being on a ladder and losing control of a 30-pound (if not 50), huge, awkward, cumbersome picture, and trying not to drop it down the spiral stairs while falling off the ladder. NOT FUN. The side with the nails that we bent (bottom) held, but the side with the nails driven straight through (top) did not. The wire didn’t fail; just the nails for one half.

So the next day I went to Home Depot and bought 1 linear ft of shoe moulding for 50 cents, as well as new wood glue. That probably took about 1.5 hrs. How annoying!

20090124 - party prep - artwork - 175-7530-diptych-175-7531 - Clampy McClampsALot - please click through to leave a comment on FlickR
Clampy McClampsALot
We realized that we had to do this the right way: Shoe moulding and wood glue, just like the existing mount.

Even though I have wood glue, I posted a tweet asking people for wood glue recommendations, and went around Home Depot and talked to several people.

The help there didn’t really know, but there was some old man (a customer) who was willing to walk me over there and spend 20 minutes talking about the various glues. I ended up buying some glue that was the same kind I already had, but… I think it was a higher model.I then found out, only after putting the glue down, that you’re supposed to CLAMP it for 30 minutes. Maybe that’s why in the past I have been prejudiced about wood glue sucking — I never clamped it before. (I’d never had anything fail so badly that I needed to read the instructions before.)

The Vice-Grip — best tool ever — made an obvious first clamp. But what about the 2nd clamp? Since I’d just re-organized my utility room – I knew where the vice I made in 1987 shop class was!

20081121 - utility room organization - 0 - 172-7245 - main tool store by you.

I had actually made this vice from molted metal. Poured it into the mold myself, yada yada. For the first time in 22 years, I got to use it for its intended purpose! Go packrating!This picture reminds me of the Clamps robot from Futurama.

“Let’s give him the clamps! Or a clamp-like device!”

The glue would take 24 hours to fully set, and for the first time ever I intended to follow those instructions. This would mean putting the picture up 2-3 hours before people arrived at our party! A very close call!

20090124 - party prep - artwork - 175-7536-diptych-7532 - History, hooks - please click through to leave a comment on FlickR
History, hooks
At this point, the wood glue (see previous picture) had been drying for 24 hours. I had bought several kinds of hooks, but the ones on the right were what I ended up using. TWO screws per hook meant these should hold very tight. And they did. total success!!!At this point, I figured maybe it was time to start a “history” on the back of the art, so that future owners would know where the hell this came from. Of course I had to estimate all the dates, so the information is not very precise, date-wise. But at least it’s approximately accurate.
Parents: Maybe you know more about the dates?

20090124 - party prep - artwork - 175-7538 - finished product - only possible with extremely dangerous ladder setup (see next pics) - please click through to leave a comment on FlickR
finished product – only possible with extremely dangerous ladder setup (see next pics)
Success! After a failed attempt, this was very satisfying!

I used TWO heavy duty (rated for 50-lb?) picture hangers, as the exact center happened to fall in between 2 wood panels. So I had to put a hanger on each side of the indentation between panels.

I was very happy that via measuring and estimates, we managed to get the “margin” over the top of this to be about the same as the margins on the sides.And it turned out there was just enough vertical room left under it that our Drawn Together subway poster fit right under it. (People wont see this until our next party.)

FYI, the duct tape on the ladder was to keep it from scratching the wall. But it was put on the wrong side of the ladder, so we scratched the wood anyway. But now the picture is over it so you don’t see it. :)

As for the ladder — that was as hard as the picture. The top of the ladder is actually in mid air; it’s not leaning on anything. The next pictures show how we accomplished this:

LADDER BONDAGE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

20090124 - party prep - ladder bondage - 175-7524a-diptych-7524b - please click through to leave a comment on FlickR
“Your safeword is banana.”

In order to hang up the heavy wood art (see previous pictures), we needed to be able to stand way high up.

Without a flat floor to stand on, there was NO WAY to get up there to do this!

I figured out that there was ONE alternative left: TIE our ladder (LADDER BONDAGE) to the spiral stair rails, such that the ladder goes up into MID-AIR.

We used the leftover pool cloth from our pool table refelting to protect the rails from scratches, and clothes destined for charity/attic-insulation to be “worn” on the “feet” of our ladder so.

Keep in mind the “left foot” of the ladder was STILL in mid air. The “right foot” was hooked UNDER a step. That, and the rope, is the only reason the ladder was stable. This is probably the most extreme thing we’ve ever done in our house!

The rope is high quality rope from a “fall compliance kit” I paid $160 for, so that I could clean my gutters (which costs $80 for someone else to do) without dying. And we were pretty thorough about tying it. Who needs Shibari knowledge to get some good tying done??

StairLadderway To Heaven:

20090124 - party prep - ladder bondage - 175-7526-7527-7525-triptych - Ladderway To Heaven - see how far it is from the wall?!?!?! - please click through to leave a comment on FlickR
see how far it is from the wall?!?!?!

Going up was scary!

20090124 - party prep - ladder bondage - 175-7528 - anchored to foosball table - please click through to leave a comment on FlickR
anchored to foosball table
In this picture, you can see how it was “anchored” to the foosball table. Not that this came into play. I knew that if the anchoring ever came into play, it would mean that the ladder and/or I was already falling. Still: Anything to slow down the fall would be advantageous. It was very inconvenient to use these stairs for the 24-48 hours it was like this.

Finally, the moment of truth:

20090124 - party prep - ladder craziness - 175-7537-diptych-7534 - even the cats know this is unsafe! - please click through to leave a comment on FlickR
even the cats know this is unsafe!

As scary as the left picture looks, the right picture is even more dangerous!

At least in the left picture, 3 of my 4 limbs are leveraged on something: One foot on the ladder, the other on the spiral stair rail, and my right arm holding onto the vent enclosure ‘wall’.

In the right picture, I’m simply balanced on my feet, with my hands not really holding on to anything! Carolyn was holding onto one of my belt loops most of the time. And I took the rubber cap off the top of the spiral stair support column (I keep throwing things down it as a joke), so that I could grab its edge if need be. There are also spare couch cushions (from thrown away couches) on the stairs in case I fell. And of course the hard hat.

And a non-related picture for fun:

20090124 - party prep - mirror - 175-7699 - spiral stairs - please click through to leave a comment on FlickR
among other hangings, a mirror, which “creates more” toys

We did all this ladder business with the toys sitting on the shelf right next to it. I think we only knocked down 2 or 3, which is amazing considering what we were doing.  The mirror really adds to the look of the collection. It also means it’s now possible to see the downstairs door without having to go downstairs — by looking in the mirror.

To view all the pictures of this set on flickr, go to my 20090124 tag on flickr.

Of course the best insulation is proper insulation.
Or so we’re told.
I question that you get your money’s worth back unless you’re going to be in your house for years afterwards. However, increasing energy costs are changing that equation.

But what about clothes? Say I have a garbaeg bag full of clothes, and I noticed there’s no insulation between the joists. Clothes definitely insulate; I’m cold when not wearing them, and not as cold when wearing them.

Could I not lay some old clothes, scraps, and such down on areas of my house that aren’t insulated? The boards that comprise the sides of my roof — I can see outside in between some them. Could I not staple some clothes over the hole? In terms of ROI, getting even 10 cents back for your trash is a really good ROI.

And what about old blankets? If you’re going to throw away a blanket, could you not staple it up over an uninsulated wall?

Or is this just all way too mean to the homeless people who would get the clothes if we donated to them?
But to counter that: Wouldn’t people be able to donate more if their bills were lower?

Some questions don’t have easy answers. But ROI-wise, it seems like a win. (more…)

So, lately I had the misfortune of deciding to fix my sink. You know stoppers in bathroom sinks, with the lever you pull to make them go up? Ours had been broken for years. Of course it was fine when we moved in.

So I went to Home Depot and bought a shiny new replacement stopper. Unfortunately the rod is aluminum even though everything else is brass, so it looks “interesting” these days.

However, the process was HELLISH!! I never realized that whoever designed these systems kind of did a poor job. Or that maybe there’s simply not a better solution.

See the “sucky screw” in the diagram below? That’s all that holds this rod in! Do you know how easy it is to pull that rod out? Pretty damn easy. I pulled it out 3 or 4 times just testing it. Doesn’t matter how hard you screw; screwing something perpendicular to a SMOOTH METAL ROD is not the best way to hold it in place.

It your parts are old, dirty, nicked, and corroded — then the screw will hold. But on new parts, that are shiny and smooth? It barely holds. Screw it as tight as you can. Maybe I should have screwed it with a wrench? F that!

The solution is simple: Put duct tape on it. Hold the 2 parts together with stickiness. If only I’d done that the first time, it never would have pulled out, and I would have probably saved 30 minutes of my life.

So I’m giving my wasted time back in the hopes to save someone else 30 minutes. Put the tape there. The tape alone should hold it, but the screw is a nice backup. Both together should work really well. The only drawback is it’s harder to get the rod out. But isn’t that the point?

(more…)

Do you have one of those spinning party lights that spins around and projects various lights on the ceiling? Or even a generic disco ball?

Place a mirror behind it. Now the lights projected outward will spin in both directions simultaneously. This makes a cheap light look like a more expensive light, and makes the projected lights on the ceiling much more chaotic and interesting (and thus festive)…
20070317 - Carolyn's birthday and St. Patrick's Day party - (by Casey) - 425409839_c49c9dcfdd_b - Fire Water and lights (more…)

What the hell happened? Two or 3 days ago, I came downstairs to find out that BOTH fluorescent lights in our kitchen had problems.

The one over the sink (2 sockets for 18-inch lights) works, but is very, very, very dim. Before it was bright, and I had taped an X-Ray in front of it to darken it some. Now it’s darker without the x-ray than it was before.

And then the one over the center of the kitchen (4 sockets for 48-inch lights, filled with blacklights). 2 of the blacklights weren’t working. I fortunately still had 2 spares in my crawlspace. Upon various shuffling around, I ended up getting all 4 lights working again — but I was NEVER ABLE TO CONCLUDE that the two bulbs I took out were actually broken! You see, they worked as a pair in the other sockets, but the lights in those wouldn’t work when switched. I could not get 4 sockets to work without bringing in 2 new ones, but at the same time: The 2 that I removed definitely worked.

HUH? That makes no sense!

And then today I discovered that the screw-in standard-socket mini-blacklight in my upstairs ceiling fan was ALSO DEAD.

WTF? How can something happen that affects multiple fluorescent lights? At least in the kitchen, they are on the same circuit so there could possibly be some relation.

Stacy?? Christian? Dad? Anyone? (more…)

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