What a Farce

So the latest housing assessments for our county came out on Friday. I’m feeling another challenge coming on, because this is getting plain ridiculous. In 2005, I successfully challenged them because they had clearly made an error in their assessment. This time, I may have to challenge them just for spite. On every house around me, including ours, the “building” portion of the assessed value went down by $125k. Good news, right? Sure, except that the “land” portion went UP by the EXACT same amount: $125k. The net effect is that our house has now had the exact same assessed value for the past three years running. What a load of crap. According to the county’s news release, 26,261 homes had their land and building values change, but not the overall assessment. Most interesting. The Vienna area in general had a -0.10% change in assessment values, which shows me that a lot of those 26,261 are in Vienna.
Time to go start gathering my evidence again. I’ve already found one “comparable” home that sold last August for $20k less than their assessed value. This should be fun.

Oven’s Fixed!

I almost forgot to mention: my $17 oven part ($25 including UPS shipping) arrived on Friday afternoon. Since I had already taken it apart previously, it was a quick 5 minute installation. And lo, our oven was working again! How awesome is that? How about $160 of awesome? To get a GE repairman out to our house would have cost $80 for the house call, plus getting the part directly from them was another $80. Doing it myself saved us a load of money, which is especially nice after having to pay for an electrician recently.
So yes, the rumors are true: I stuck my head in an oven, and it had nothing to do with the kids driving me crazy.

Sore on Monday, Again

Last week, I was sore because I had just finished curling 7 games in 4 days, including 3 in one day. This week, I’m sore because I ran a measly 1.8 miles yesterday.
This weekend, I really just wanted to catch up on some sleep. I was dragging all week, and hoped to get an extra couple of hours in on the weekend. But, on Saturday, I was still up around the usual time. We took Ellie to ballet class, and I later went to Home Depot for doors and shelves. Of course, on the way home I was hit with the epiphany that even after thinking three times about which way the door needed to open, I still got the one that opened the wrong way. So instead, I put the shelves for our guest room closet together. That went pretty well, and now our Rubbermaid bins of Christmas stuff, baby clothes, etc, are much more neatly organized than before (and we don’t have to unstack 5 to get to the bottom one).
On Sunday morning, I woke up around 7:30 and couldn’t get myself back to sleep, so I decided to try out my nifty new GPS watch and go for a quick run. It wasn’t terribly cold, nice weather for a run. I only averaged about an 8:24 pace, and the watch worked pretty well, though ironically, it doesn’t actually tell time! Then it was back to Home Depot for the correct door and home to install it, while watching MSU beat the hell out of Michigan in college hoops. Despite all my best efforts to make sure everything was square and level, the door still ended up just off kilter by fractions of an inch. I think I was eventually able to shim around the door and get it to the point where I was okay with it, but it was just plain annoying.
My usual Sunday curling game went to an extra end, thanks to two good shots by me to tie it up in the last end, but we lost in the extra because I missed both of my shots badly. I need to work on my release, because I know that’s where I’m having the problems.
All that leads me to this morning, where my shins are in agony, unexpectedly. It has to have been the running, though I wouldn’t have thought less than 2 miles could have that effect. Most of the rest of me is fine, just those shins (or rather, the muscle running alongside the shin). I definitely should have just stayed in bed.


Yesterday, we had an electrician come out to look at our dishwasher/dryer problem, finally. Doing the dishes by hand isn’t too awful, but we had a lot of laundry piling up since we didn’t have a dryer. He quickly figured out what I wasn’t able to: that a fuse that fed our auxiliary power panel had blown. The auxiliary runs the dishwasher, dryer, and something else that even he couldn’t figure out. I had no idea there was a fuse up there to even replace, but now I know, and knowing is half the battle (Go Joe!).
Naturally, later that SAME DAY, our oven stopped working. Actually, the burners work, and the broiler works, but the bake function does not. After finding out that a service call would cost $80, I narrowed down the problem to, I think, the Glo starter thingie. It’s supposed to replace the old pilot light, and it is not glowing like it’s supposed to. So I found a guy on eBay selling them for $17 (instead of $50), and we’ll see if that fixes the problem. I’m definitely getting to know our house and its appliances much better in this new year. Too bad that wasn’t one of my resolutions.
One last bit of house-related craziness: mortgage rates have dropped so much that I’m almost considering refinancing again. In our last round, we got a rate of 6%, and right now, it looks like we could get 5.125% (saves about $150/month, we break even in 16 months), or even a 20 year mortgage at 4.875% (costs only about $125 more per month, gets paid off ten years earlier, just in time for the kids to be finishing college). Thankfully, we belong to that select group of people that actually still has good credit, so we should have no problem qualifying if we want to. I may wait a few more days though, just to see if things don’t go down even a little bit more.

When It Rains…

Since we’ve gotten back from our holiday break, this is what we’ve had to deal with:

  • Garbage disposal jammed; I managed to clear the jam and get it working again.
  • Sink backed up, possibly due to disposal jam? I snaked the drain pipe all the way as far as the snake would go, and never hit anything, but must have managed to clear some junk out somewhere.
  • Yesterday, two more things happened, possibly related.
  • The clothes dryer stopped working; this was not a big surprise, the thing is ancient, and we’ve managed to put off getting a new one for a long time.
  • The dishwasher also stopped working.

Both the dryer and dishwasher stopped working in mid-cycle, which seems bizarre. It’s possible that it’s something electrical, though as far as I can tell, they are not on the same circuit. Unfortunately, when figuring out what is attached to which fuse/circuit breaker, I never accounted for the appliances, and it’s not obvious that any fuses were blown or circuits tripped, so we may have to call in an electrician. Nice timing since we’ve got holiday bills coming due, and we’re taking a trip up to Connecticut for the curling tournament this weekend. Sigh.
But hey, how bout them Giants?!?! Somehow Eli strung together his third straight 100+ QB rating, for the first time in his career. It seems to me that Plaxico Burress is obviously not 100% and has no ability to stretch the field on defenders, so the Giants are somewhat lucky that the opposition hasn’t taken advantage of that. Going up to Green Bay is going to be tough, and I think it’ll come down to who runs the ball better. Hopefully we can get back from CT in time to catch the game!

We Three Kings

We had a “Three Kings” brunch on Saturday with a bunch of friends. Normally, a Three Kings party would involve exchanging your “worst” Christmas presents, but since a lot of what would have been exchanged would have been kids’ gifts, we decided against it this year, though we may do it next year. Instead, we focused on having adult beverages for all the parents and letting the kids run around like crazy. Irish coffee and mimosas went over well (the limited bar menu also went over well with the bartender: me). Lisa took care of everyone’s appetite and managed to have minimal leftovers. Unfortunately, our sink drain decided to get clogged right after she finished making everything and needed to run the dishwasher. So the dishes went into the shower until after the party. Thankfully, I was able to get the drain unclogged the following day, though I still don’t know what was clogging it as nothing came out. Later that night, I turned on the Big Ten network just in time to catch the end of their win over Minnesota. Drew Neitzel had another awful game, but Raymar Morgan is establishing himself as a player (and I expect he’ll be going to the NBA soon) and Kalin Lucas is a “diaper dandy” in the making.
It was a good day overall yesterday, as we started off the day returning the half-functioning heated mattress pad I bought. The “dual controls” only worked on one side of the pad, so we took it back to JC Penney. Turned out they didn’t sell it in store, only online, but the customer service rep was really nice and reordered a new one for me, which they are going to ship to our house directly, for no charge. I figured I’d at least have to pay shipping again, but they didn’t even charge me for that. Nice. Then we went and picked up some new towels and found out after we had left the store that they only charged us for one of the four towels. 4 towels for $4.19, very nice for us.
After we got home, I caught up on the Tivo-ed action of the Giants-Bucs game. Lucky for me I could skip through most of that bad first quarter and get to the good parts of the 2nd quarter quickly. During halftime, I successfully snaked the drain, then went back downstairs to catch up on the action and follow the victory. I’m still an Eli skeptic, but didn’t that 8 1/2 minute TD drive in the fourth quarter remind you of the long TD drive in the Giants’ Super Bowl XXV victory over the Bills? OK, maybe that’s going a bit too far, but it was a nice drive all-around, even if I’m not convinced, as some pundits are, that it was a big step in Eli’s maturation process. I’m still a wait-and-see guy on that front.
We then went to the curling club for our usual Sunday pizza and game, where I somehow lucked into getting a ringer substitute for our game, which we won easily. The coming weeks are going to be very busy, curling-wise, as I travel to Connecticut for the Club National Championship playdowns (sort of like a regional qualifier for the Club National Championship) and then to Schenectady for the Dykes (5 years or less curling experience) bonspiel in February. We got a nice deal on a nice hotel for Connecticut on Priceline too. The 3 star Marriott is only about 7 minutes from the bonspiel and normally would have cost us $660 for 4 nights, but we got it for $300. The “discount” rate at the Courtyard that they were giving us would have cost us about $100 more too, so we got a pretty good deal, I’d say. By the way, if anyone has anything they think we should do while in the Bridgeport area, we’re open to suggestions, since we will probably have a decent amount of downtime during the weekend.

The Bar is Open

On Saturday evening, after watching MSU finally become bowl eligible (anyone going to be in Michigan on December 26? Motor City Bowl, baby!), we had Evan’s birthday party. Since he hasn’t really made too many one year old friends, the party consisted of a lot of Ellie’s friends and actual adults. Crazy, I know. What better occasion to officially open the new bar?
We finished painting Ellie’s new twin bed and Lisa moved it upstairs on Friday and managed to reconfigure her room too. I’m still impressed by that, seeing that I wasn’t home to help. Good job! On Friday evening, we cleaned up most of the mess in the basement and hung the Guinness mirror, a present from about 5 years ago that is finally getting put to use. On Saturday, I headed up to Norm’s for some beer. I filled a cooler with ice behind the bar and we were ready to go. On “tap” were Tröegs Mad Elf (previously reviewed), Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale, Bell’s Winter White Ale (previously reviewed), Smuttynose Winter Ale, and the special of the night, Dogfish Head Pangaea. The Mad Elf was clearly the favorite, with its cherry and honey flavors appealing to even the non-beer drinkers. Lisa didn’t let me wear my hawesome Mad Elf shirt though, it is admittedly tacky for a young one’s birthday party. I enjoyed the Pangaea, but didn’t take enough notes to properly review it. Smuttynose and Celebration Ale reviews will be forthcoming, as I had leftovers of both.
The bar opening was a success for sure. I did find that I will need a new cooler as the old one’s drain busted and leaked all over the floor overnight. I also need to find my sweet Guinness bar towel and get a bar-mounted bottle opener. And something for the bartender to sit on whilst chatting with the customers. All agreed that the bar looks great, and the grand opening was a big success.
Oh, and Evan’s party pictures will be forthcoming. We still haven’t completely cleaned up yet!