Archive for Surlywood

A waste of water

This should be ice in my drinks, not ice all over the foliage:

The stubbornest rose of all

We were visited last night by the Ice Fairy, or some such nuisance like that: it will take a guy with a chainsaw (due tomorrow) to clear away enough of the mulberry to open up the driveway, which was utterly impassable this morning. I’ve seen worse, but this is bad enough.

(Embiggened version on Flickr. You know that one holdout rose from a couple weeks ago? It’s still there.)

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Where it all goes (’15)

The county was a little late getting the property-tax bills out, though of course they’re not going to be cutting taxpayers any slack in getting those bills paid. The actual amount I get to pay is a smidgen higher than last year, due to a small increase in the assessed value and a fraction of a mill added to the actual tax rate. Here’s where all those dollars go, and in brackets, where they went last year:

  • City of Oklahoma City: $124.57 [$120.39]
  • Oklahoma City Public Schools: $476.19 [$462.53]
  • Metro Tech Center: $123.21 [$120.39]
  • Oklahoma County general: $94.03 [$90.78]
  • Countywide school levy: $33.02 [$32.26]
  • City/County Health Department: $20.66 [$20.18]
  • Metropolitan Library System: $41.47 [$40.52]
  • Total: $913.14 [$887.04]

This year’s millage is 114.50, up from last year’s 113.84. (Record millage: 117.58, 2011.) The bank presumably will cut them a check on Monday.

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Let’s do it again

While my attention was focused on the back yard and my presumably soon-to-disintegrate shed, the roses up front were assembling a final forward thrust for fall, and this was the first one out:

One rose, photographed on 14 November 2015

At center-bottom you can see one of the reinforcements coming in: there are a dozen buds at the moment, and temperatures look to remain above freezing for at least the next week.

As usual, there’s a bigger version at Flickr.

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“Shed” is also a verb

Gale-force winds for much of Wednesday came awfully close to blowing my old metal shed off its concrete block. There wasn’t much of anything out there worth saving — a bottom-of-the-line broadcast spreader was about it — but the structure itself looks like about two and a half seconds before the end of a round of Jenga. Replacing it would cost somewhere around half my insurance deductible, so I’m waiting to see what the weekend brings before I contemplate this matter further.

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Goblin report

A slow start, and inevitably a slow finish, but in between was a pretty steady flow of trick-or-treaters: fifty-three in all, second highest on record, beating out the 49 count in 2012. (I don’t ever expect to see the 2010 record of 102 broken.)

At some point during grocery shopping this afternoon, I decided “Maybe I need just one more bag.” Turns out, I needed at least a third of that bag. Otherwise, the event was, um, largely uneventful; one girl tried to exit through the rosebush — she won’t try that again — and one very sleepy boy in a stroller wasn’t quite sure what was going on.

And yes, I unloaded all the Twizzlers: the first 45 customers got one along with a Mild Amusement Size candy bar.

Update, 8:45 pm: I am informed — and provided with photographic evidence — that Number One grandson, the guy who did his best James Bond earlier this month, went full-on girl mode for this event.

Update, 8:55 pm: Number One granddaughter — she’s twelve — made a pretty convincing-looking Tina Belcher from Bob’s Burgers.

Update, 9:15 pm: While cleaning up the inevitable disorder, I found one stray Twizzler. Damn.

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Undead trees

You may remember this from early 2010:

The plumber stared in disbelief. “Roots, all right. But this is a plastic line.”

Which, as we used to say, can mean only one of one thing: the suckers had grown into the junction between the metal pipe inside the house and the plastic stuff that leads to the city sewer. It’s a good ten feet from any actual trees, but trees don’t much care about distance.

At the time, the following options were offered: rip out those pipes and replace that junction, at a cost that would make one’s nose bleed, or have the line scoured out every five years to get rid of the offending roots.

Welcome to 2015. I have three fewer live trees now, but roots apparently are the zombies of the plant world. (Which would complicate Plants vs. Zombies, wouldn’t it?)

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Still unchewed after all these years

I acquired the palatial estate at Surlywood in 2003, and one of the details that had to be addressed before closing was termite certification; a local firm was called in to look the place over and destroy any trace of the little so-and-sos. As it turns out, none were found.

However, I retained the same firm to come back in twelve months and recheck, and they’ve been by every year since then. So far, so good.

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Decreasingly dear

Last year’s homeowner’s-insurance lament:

Obviously this downward trend could not be allowed to continue, so this year it’s going to nearly $3000. This, mind you, on a house insured for a mere $130,000. I can only conclude that they expect a visit from Godzilla, or that they’re wanting to get their hands on some of those sweet, sweet government bucks the way the health-insurance guys have.

Well, the escalator clause each year has two effects: it increases the total amount of coverage, and it jacks up the deductible for wind and hail, which is a percentage of the total amount of coverage. I’m thinking these two numbers don’t combine neatly, which may or may not explain the $170 decrease in the premium.

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Reddish alert

The day after the Giant Moon Blockout Party, or whatever, what I thought was a leftover stem from this year’s white irises, presumably in hibernation until spring, suddenly straightened up, and over the next couple of days produced, well, this:

Mysterious red-orange flower

I tossed a version of this picture up on Twitter to see what the hive mind had to say; first response (via @s_r_s) was red spider lily (Lycoris radiata), about which much has been said:

When the flowers of lycoris bloom, their leaves would have fallen; when their leaves grow, the flowers would have wilted. This habit gave rise to various legends. A famous one is the legend of two elves: Mañju, who guarded the flower, and Saka, who guarded the leaves. Out of curiosity, they defied their fate of guarding the herb alone, and managed to meet each other. At first sight, they fell in love with each other. God, exasperated by their waywardness, separated the miserable couple, and laid a curse on them as a punishment: the flowers of Mañju shall never meet the leaves of Saka again.

It was said that when the couple met after death in Diyu (hell), they vowed to meet each other after reincarnation. However, neither of them could keep their word.

So evidently it belongs here, in the land of frustrated longings.

(A full three-point-whatever megapixel shot is on Flickr.)

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Prepared for the worst

When I got home today, I found a standard #10 envelope by the front door, hand-inscribed “Dear Neighbor.” I figured it had to deal with one of two things that someone must have seen: my faceplant by the curb this morning, which didn’t seem too worrisome — someone offering to help in the future, maybe? — or my brief(less) stargazing experience from last night, which probably wasn’t so good.

(There is a nonzero probability that someone may have murmured “Thank God, we thought we were the only ones!” Still, nonzero does not mean a long way from zero.)

Of course, it turns out to be neither, but a flyer, a much-photocopied cover letter from one “Jennifer R.”, and a pair of tickets to this:

International Youth Fellowship (IYF) USA and Gracias Choir will be back on the road to present the 2015 Gracias Christmas Cantata US Tour across 25 cities from September 19th to October 16th. Christmas Cantata features 3 dynamic stages filled with cherished carols, gorgeous sets, and an eternal message of hope wrapped in one huge, breathtaking show.

Admission to Christmas Cantata is FREE but each performance is first-come, first-served and seating is limited. So find a Christmas Cantata tour stop near you, and request your tickets now. You can also make a donation to our US Tour and reserve your seats without waiting in line!

Come celebrate the true meaning of Christmas with Gracias Choir and IYF: the birth of love, hope, and happiness in each and every one of hearts. #BringTheJoy

Everybody has a hashtag these days. [sniff]

The local showing is Saturday night (10/10) at 7 pm at the Civic.

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All plop, no fizz

As usual this morning, I walked down the driveway toward the curb to fetch the newspaper. (I am one of those people who actually would prefer an afternoon paper, but the ten or twelve of us who still exist don’t count for much.) As usual, it was positioned on the section of concrete with the sharpest slant.

They say “Use your knees, not your back” to pick up stuff. If they had knees like mine, they never would have said such a thing. The Monday paper being generally smallish, I had a long way to go, and calculating the geometry of the matter, I spread my feet apart a few inches to buy some vertical. And then, having seized the paper, I unaccountably pitched forward, two, three steps, and wound up washing my face in the morning dew.

The fact that I was able to get up from this was heartening, or at least not leading to despondency. I dusted myself off and headed for the shop, figuring I can use the time at that traffic snarl around Penn Square to report that I wasn’t going to be in by 6:30.

No phone.

Evidently when I pulled myself off the ground, the little so-and-so stayed behind. I made a modestly mad dash in the opposite direction, retrieved the device, and started over. Okay, it was closer to 6:45. I can live with that. And they’re going to have to, you know?

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Moon over Surlywood

Two conflicting urges here. I did want to get some sort of photographic record of the Big Fricking Bloody Moon Eclipse Thing while it was live; on the other hand, I have enough Sixties hippie left over inside me to insist that astronomical phenomena should be enjoyed in one’s most natural state.

Resolved, of course. Shot just over my roof, this is the Big Fricking Bloody Moon Eclipse Thing, and apparently nobody noticed the unclothed chap standing on his driveway — which is amazing, given my lack of suntan and consequent monstrously high albedo.

Super Blood Moon 2015

A somewhat embiggened version resides on Flickr for the moment.

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Carpe the crap out of this diem

Sometimes a noise wakes you; sometimes the absence of noise wakes you. I stirred this morning, rolled over enough to see the clock, and saw — nothing. The fan in the corner was dead. Great, thought I. Power outage. I duly punched up OG&E on the phone, reported the calamity, and after a few minutes the Brain Ready light finally came on.

You may remember this incident from the spring:

There used to be a metal pole west of the driveway that contained a light fixture; the light would go on at dark and turn off at sunrise, or at least it did for a while. Then the bulb socket broke, and I didn’t rush to have it fixed; when the ground to the west began eroding away, the pole began to lean at an embarrassing angle. Finally, on a day of 60-mph winds, the pole loosened up from what little base it had, and a couple of scavengers hauled it off for scrap metal.

I don’t miss it, exactly, but I’m wondering what I should do with this length of cable the thieves left behind. I am loath to call my usual electrician, since he’s fixated on bringing the whole house up to code, at a price that leaves little change from a $10,000 bill.

At the time, I covered up the bare ends of the wires and tucked the cable behind a shrub. Now, however, was a real opportunity. I threw on just enough clothing to avoid arrest and went at it with a pruning hook. Got the stub down below ground level, and then dropped a large rock over it.

As I was tossing that length of cable into the trash bin, the lights came back on. Had I dawdled three minutes more, you would presumably not be reading this.

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Light comedy

Who else, I ask you, brings you this much personal experience on the subject of light bulbs?

Last year, reader backwoods conservative observed:

What is recommended for garage doors is rough service bulbs. They have more supports for the filament and therefore do not break so easily. The bulb itself is often made stronger to be less prone to breakage. The information I have is that rough service bulbs are exempt from the new standards and will still be allowed. They are more expensive, but I hear they hold up very well.

I haven’t changed a bulb in the garage-door opener in a decade, and I am loath to start now. That said, a few weeks back the supermarket had a box of off-brand “rough-service” bulbs for a not-unreasonable price — three bucks for four bulbs — and I decided to give them a shot in some other applications.

And in those cases, the results were decidedly meh: the bulbs seem sturdy enough, and design life is no worse than other incandescents, but this particular series is rated at a meager 500 lumens, about a third less than one gets from the usual 60-watt classic. I would have known this, of course, had I bothered to read the actual box; it’s not like this little detail is hidden away.

Meanwhile, this little contretemps was taking place in the kitchen:

[T]he hemidemisemiglobe, apparently insufficiently tightened down, yielded to the force of gravity, forcing me into Shard Removal mode. Results: fairly unsightly. On the upside, it’s a hell of a lot brighter in there, and now the freaking CFLs ought to work better, so long as I don’t actually replace the glass.

As it happens, I didn’t have any freaking CFLs in there, as they died entirely too quickly in the fixture with that glass dome in place. When one of the two 60-watt classics died last week, I wearily dragged out the stepladder, ascended to the heights, dismounted both incandescents, and installed two 20-watt CFLs, billed as the equivalent of 75-watters, which were not recommended for this fixture because, um, heat. Let’s see ’em get more than moderately warm without a big glass ball surrounding ’em. Further upside: 2400 lumens instead of 1600. Downside: it’s much easier to see how much the kitchen floor (white tile) needs a good mopping.

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Depreciated frozen asset

Monday evening, I popped open the freezer to withdraw something for Tuesday’s dinner, and there was a quarter-inch-thick coating of ice on the bottom. Even more fun, the ice bucket, normally filled with proper cubes, contained one large rectangular block of ice.

Most logical assumption: icemaker malfunction. I filled up the ice mold from a coffee cup; two hours later it had produced the expected number of cubes, but the mold was empty. This tells me that the mechanism still works, but the water valve is toast. A parts operation offered to sell the valve separately, for about 60 percent of the price of an entire icemaker. (Lowe’s has a bolt-in replacement for about $100.)

Now the fridge, a just-above-bottom-of-the-line Whirlpool masquerading as a Sears Kenmore, is about to reach its 12th birthday. I see no reason to spend the better part of a grand replacing the whole thing if I can replace the icemaker without incident. Then again, I have very little faith in my appliance-repair skillz.

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Low-yield incendiary device

It was, in fact, a teensy wedge of potato that somehow had glued itself to the underside of the back burner, presumably last week since I hadn’t used that burner since then. I duly set a very large pan of water back there to boil for pasta, waited about 90 seconds, and the smell rapidly overtook me. No problem identifying the source: the flames around the bottom of the pan gave it away. I withdrew the pan, turned off the burner, poked around with a wooden implement until the offending tuber was out of range, then resumed.

The stench remained, of course. I shut down the air conditioner, popped open several windows, and cranked up the attic fan. Win: it cleared the scent in three minutes flat. Lose: humidity inside climbed from just under 50 percent to just over 70.

The punchline here is that I used the A/C downtime to change out the filter, there being few instances of downtime of this sort generally available in July, and I admit it: I was a lot more panicky about getting that damned filter into place than I was about flames shooting out from under a pan.

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It’s all too much

Nothing in life prepares you for finding a hefty chunk of tree just lying in the street on an otherwise-peaceful morning.

Well, nothing has prepared me for it, anyway.

Update: Morning wood gone by evening, so to speak.

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We got your easement right here

It was almost exactly seven years ago when I contemplated the possibility of getting actual sidewalks on my postwar suburban-ish street, and I was sort of dubious about the prospects:

[D]oes it go on my side of the street, or on the other side? There’s a sidewalk around the corner which, if continued, would end up on my side. The city, I believe, would have no issues with taking out my elm tree, or the one next door, but I suspect they draw the line at having to relocate my water meter, which is even closer to the curb than the trees are. Argument for the opposite side of the street: it’s a lot flatter over there.

We learned this week, though, that they’re actually coming, along with resurfacing of all the east-west streets in the neighborhood, most of which are crumbling concrete with approximately one part per thousand of grass. (The Neighborhood Association was very high on both these prospects, and I can’t say as I blame them.) And yes, it’s going to be on my side, so I can presumably kiss that tree goodbye.

The pitch from the NA, which voted overwhelmingly for the sidewalk project:

Any homeowner whose front yard is in the path of development of the new sidewalks will lose approximately 5 square feet of their front lot. The benefit will be a greatly improved and beautified neighborhood, increased walkability, and likely improved resale values.

As Martha would say, those are Good Things. The “5 square feet” bit is bungled, of course: it’s five feet back from the curb. My lot is 60 feet wide up front, so I part with 300 square feet, less the area already covered by the driveway. As for that “flatter” bit, here come the graders: an incline of two degrees is as much as they’re going to tolerate, which means I’m also presumably getting some sort of retaining wall.

When this will happen, I do not know. The repaving ordeal begins in August and will take, they say, about a year: there are 15 blocks scheduled for repaving, so maybe three weeks per block. No timetable has been unveiled for the sidewalks. And how long does it take to move a water meter, anyway? If we’re going to be waterless for long, I need to plan an escape route.

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A solution crashes into place

A rueful observation from a couple of years ago:

Several of this house’s light fixtures are inclined to give me grief, though the one most likely to give me grief at a moment’s notice is the two-bulb fixture over the kitchen sink: it has a neat and tidy design — the lower 15 percent of a sphere — which allows for a reasonable illumination pattern but which allows considerable heat buildup, and it fastens with three twist-screws, none of them placed favorably unless you’re two feet tall and can actually stand in the sink.

The advice given last decade was to replace the garden-variety 60-watt bulbs with 8-watt CFLs, which use so much less electricity that there’s just no excuse for not using them. An excuse promptly presented itself: CFLs in this installation lasted about five percent longer than the Standard Bulbs despite costing ten times as much. Must be the heat locked up in that hemidemisemiglobe, I reasoned, and reinstated the classic bulbs, grumbling all the way at having to climb that ladder yet again.

And there things stood until yesterday afternoon, when the ground, or at least the walls, shook a bit, and the hemidemisemiglobe, apparently insufficiently tightened down, yielded to the force of gravity, forcing me into Shard Removal mode. Results: fairly unsightly. On the upside, it’s a hell of a lot brighter in there, and now the freaking CFLs ought to work better, so long as I don’t actually replace the glass. God only knows what it would take to put a less-intractable fixture up there.

Nick Lowe, incidentally, was not available for comment, but I’m pretty sure I know what he would say.

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No threat presented

Yesterday afternoon, I pulled on my bathrobe and set off down the driveway to fetch the Sunday paper. This is generally a fairly long haul, inasmuch as the Sunday paper weighs two or three times as much as the usual daily edition and the chap lofting it from the middle of the street can only exert so much force on it.

About halfway down, a robin approached, and proceeded to follow me down the driveway for a couple of yards. On foot. Not so much as the flap of a wing. The bird stood there as I retrieved the plastic bag and started back up; he waited until I was within a meter or so of him, then emitted one note and took off for the top of the nearest holly.

This isn’t the first time the robins have put somebird on guard duty — turf must be protected, after all — but they don’t often make it so obvious. (And I, as the possessor of a mulberry tree, have provided a food source, which they are loath to let go without a fight.)

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I was here first

Pink rose and orange iris battle for the sunlight. So far, it seems to be a draw:

Rose and iris living together

Then again, there are dozens of roses nearby, and barely half a dozen irises, so you know which way to bet.

(Blown up to ridiculous size at Flickr.)

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Rained out on opening day

After overpruning a rosebush the year before, I decided to leave it alone, and I believe it will produce close to a bumper crop — eventually. For now, we’re running at a hair above 85 percent of normal rainfall for the year, but a nice six-hour soaker yesterday got this bud to start opening wide:

One rose, close up

An embiggened version, as usual, is on Flickr.

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So totally unwired

There used to be a metal pole west of the driveway that contained a light fixture; the light would go on at dark and turn off at sunrise, or at least it did for a while. Then the bulb socket broke, and I didn’t rush to have it fixed; when the ground to the west began eroding away, the pole began to lean at an embarrassing angle. Finally, on a day of 60-mph winds, the pole loosened up from what little base it had, and a couple of scavengers hauled it off for scrap metal.

I don’t miss it, exactly, but I’m wondering what I should do with this length of cable the thieves left behind. I am loath to call my usual electrician, since he’s fixated on bringing the whole house up to code, at a price that leaves little change from a $10,000 bill.

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It never gets that warm

ComfortMeter by LaCrosseYou’ve seen this contraption before; it sits by the bedroom door “so I can feel some sort of justification when I start kvetching about how frakking uncomfortable it’s gotten all of a sudden.” In that photo, it is reading 74.3° F. In the six years since then, it has never once read 74.4°.

In fact, it routinely skips various possible temperatures. It will show 74.5, but not 74.6; if a warming trend is afoot, it will update at 74.7. After noting that it seems to skip three or four out of every ten conceivable readings, it dawned on me what the issue might be: the manufacturer has to sell this device in lots of countries, most of which measure their temperatures in Celsius, thank you very much, and this would require the little electronic brain to update in tenths of a degree Celsius — and 0.1 Celsius degree is 0.18 Fahrenheit degree. This explains it well enough: 74.3° F is 23.5° C, 74.5 is a hair over 23.6, 74.7 is somewhat thicker hair over 23.7. And it will display 74.8, which rounds to 23.8.

I’m not sure which is less useful: the fact that it took me so long to notice that, or that it took even longer to explain it. And while I’m thinking that maybe the Canadians might be pleased, forty years ago they had few kind words for Celsius.

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Reporting from a very wet garage

At some unknown point between 10 last night and 6 this morning, my garage began filling up with water. I’m not at the point where I have the plumbers on speed-dial, but I do have their phone number memorized, and they dispatched, luckily for me, a chap who’d been here before.

Now this house was built in 1948, and a garage was added on in 1951; when the big boom in home laundry equipment came, the path of least resistance was to install the washer/dryer pair in the garage. It’s only two steps from what used to be the back door, but there’s a substantial environmental difference. In 1997, in an effort to reduce that difference, the owners installed batt-type insulation along the outside garage walls and sheathed it with plywood. This works better than you might think it would: on the coldest day I can remember since buying this place in 2003 — this would be 10 February 2011, when the mercury dropped to -5°F — the garage was still in the upper 20s. Still, there’s always the danger of water-line freeze, even with the lines tucked away into that insulated space.

Freezing, however, didn’t seem likely: it was 27°F this morning, so it would have to have been a byproduct of yesterday’s low of 11°F — though garage temperature that morning was a balmy-ish 38°F. And no, it was not frozen: I had the unfortunate combination of a rubber line to the washing machine that had split, and the faucet to which it was connected following its natural Spew procedure. New lines were obtained — I figure, if one’s gone, the other can’t be far behind — and the faucet was inspected and found merely to be full of looseness. Things are gradually returning to normal, though the concrete floor (and the rug that sits over some of it) will remain wet for a few hours yet.

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New noises in the night

It started about 10:30. The furnace went through its usual startup routine, the piezo starter clicked, and then — nothing.

And then BAM! A very loud thump, and things continued normally. This had all the signs of being Not Good, so I turned to the keyboard and sought answers. Apparently the most common cause of this ailment is grunged-up burners which pass insufficient gas. (A problem I myself have never had, I noted.) The furnace is legally old enough to drink, and I don’t trust myself around things that might explode, so I cut it off for the night and the next morning summoned the pros from Dover.

And of course, my YouTube-enhanced diagnosis was wrong. Combination of two things: bad capacitor at the blower motor, and gas pressure about 20 percent off spec. Total outlay: just under $200. And at least it didn’t happen on a day when the temperature was down in the ridiculous zone.

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Where it all goes (’14)

The property-tax bill has arrived, and the bank will cut them a check on the 30th out of my depleted escrow account. Fortunately, while the amount isn’t exactly trivial, it’s smaller than it was last year, the result of stagnant property values and an unexpected decrease in the actual tax rate. As always, the county treasurer has sent along a manifest showing what this sum is being used to fund, and last year’s numbers appear in [brackets]:

  • City of Oklahoma City: $120.39 [$126.58]
  • Oklahoma City Public Schools: $462.53 [$478.05]
  • Metro Tech Center: $120.39 [$122.50]
  • Oklahoma County general: $90.78 [$94.52]
  • Countywide school levy: $32.26 [$32.77]
  • County Health Department: $20.18 [$20.50]
  • Metropolitan Library System: $40.52 [$41.16]
  • Total: $887.04 [$915.88]

This year’s millage is 113.84, down from last year’s 115.70. (Record millage: 117.58, 2011.)

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Goblin report

For a change, I was ready by 6 pm: decorative light hung, bowl of goodies primed with the first load. On the off-chance that traffic levels might had stagnated, I bought about 17 percent less candy than last year. And no, I didn’t plan to slip anyone any Brussels sprouts.

Sunset was 6:38; ten minutes later eleven of them descended upon me. An hour passed with no more activity, and I finally closed up shop. This is disappointing in several ways — there were 45 last year, and 49 the year before — but mostly because instead of the two pounds I typically gain in November, it will probably be more like three. Or five.

Admittedly, it was a trifle colder this year than the previous two, but close to seasonal norms (high today was 60, normal is 67).

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Unbugged

As opposed to “debugged,” since the annual termite inspection here at the palatial estate turned up nothing that wanted to chew on the structural wood, the same clean bill of health I’ve received every year since I took possession of the place eleven years ago. I doubt it, really, but I’d like to believe it’s the abundance of spiders outside, who will happily chow down on many six-legged creatures; there exists at least one web spanning eight vertical feet. (We watched its occupant making really good time heading upwards.)

Surprisingly, the trees on the premises didn’t seem to be harboring any of the critters either, and the deadest one — the one containing the most detritus, anyway — might be far enough away from the house to make reconnaissance missions problematic, since they’d almost certainly have to get through SpiderNet.

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Increasingly dear

From last year, about this time:

When I bought the palatial estate at Surlywood, insurance on the place was a hair under $900 a year, which sounds high until you consider that we have every known disaster here except tsunami.

Last year, it dropped by the price of a combo meal, to just shy of $2400. Obviously this downward trend could not be allowed to continue, so this year it’s going to nearly $3000. This, mind you, on a house insured for a mere $130,000. I can only conclude that they expect a visit from Godzilla, or that they’re wanting to get their hands on some of those sweet, sweet government bucks the way the health-insurance guys have.

(Note: I’ve changed carriers before. It’s a major hassle, and based on previous experience, I expect it would save me next to nothing in the long run.)

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