December 25, 2005

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas (oder Frohes Weihnachten) to all of my blog readers!
Around here, everybody will be getting something in their stocking ...
... and we aren't even close to cleaning up after the Christmas Eve dinner that we held for the Hogan side of the family last night.
Here's our picture for this year's Christmas card.
This was originally going to be our Christmas card photograph, but only after I spent my time cropping, color-correcting, and so forth, and we sent our order off to be printed did we notice that the little Christmas trees that were printed as a border on the front of the card really only allowed our card to have a horizontal orientation. Oops! So everybody who got a card from us this year had a second picture included inside, with no explanation.
We took something like thirty pictures to get our two relatively-successful Christmas-card pictures, as most of our attempts looked a little something like this.

We don't want to sit! Why are you making us sit???!?

Posted by Kevin at 09:44 AM | Comments (1)

December 18, 2005

Digory and Christmas, So Far

Ornaments Pulled Off Of The Christmas Tree: 1 (Appropriately, it had Scout's name on it.)

Presents With Partially Chewed Wrappers: 2 (The latest after getting into a who-can-be-the-crazier-dog competition with Scout, who is A Bad Influence.)

. . . we're actually doing better than I thought we would.

Posted by Kevin at 08:50 PM

December 17, 2005

We Made The Mills Act!

Some of you may remember a discourse on the provenance of our house earlier this year. That wasn't entirely because of personal curiosity; homeowners in downtown Anaheim have a very good reason for wanting to know more about the history of their homes.

In 1972, the State of California enacted a law called the Mills Act. Under the Mills Act, cities could offer significant property tax savings to owners of qualifying historical homes, in exchange for the homeowners agreeing to maintain their house and grounds in a historically appropriate manner.

As a generous gift from Meghan Shigo, our sellers' realtor, we had a real live architectural historian (not an amateur like me) do a historical survey of our property, packaged into a format acceptable for submission to the city. Once they verified that our house was Mills Act-worthy, we got another application where we provided some more personal information and listed out our ten-year maintenance plan for the house. This past Thursday, we went to the Neighborhood Preservation department's office in City Hall West and signed the contract to include our house in Anaheim's Mills Act 'class' of 2005!

So now we need to keep up our house and landscaping in a historically accurate manner � which means no chain-link fences, no stucco siding over the wood, no vinyl windows, or any other number of venial sins (here's the book detailing Anaheim's historic preservation plan and illustrating their rehabilitation dos and donts � warning, it's a gigantic PDF file). The contract is an 'evergreen' contract: nominally, the contract term is ten years, but at the end of each year, it automatically extends itself for another year. If we sell the house, the contract (and its tax benefits) are transferrable to the next owner. Our house gets a walk-by inspection once a year; if things are looking shoddy, we get a warning and have six months to bring things back up to snuff. The penalty for breach of contract is stiff � twelve and a half percent of assessed value! � but the savings are correspondingly sweet; our property tax could be slashed by sixty percent (or more!), saving us thousands each year.

Tom, the Neighborhood Preservation rep, was pretty proud of Anaheim's Mills Act performance; with a full 'class' this year, Anaheim has pulled ahead of the City of Orange, moving up to number three in the list of cities with the most Mills Act contracts, behind Los Angeles and San Diego (don't think that we'll be catching up to either of those too soon).

Our house will be reassessed next year, so the tax benefits start coming into play with our 2007 tax bill. Next Spring, we'll be getting a plaque for our front porch that looks something like this:


. . . except ours will read "The Taggart House" (after the builder/first owner of our home) and will have our street address, of course.

Here's the proposed ten-year list of home improvements that we submitted with our application: we'll see how many of these we get around to with the tax money that we'll be saving. (Note to the anxious: we haven't legally agreed to do all of these things over the next ten years; the contract just obligates us to keep up the exterior appearance of the house and grounds. Tom repeatedly stressed that his inspections are strictly a curb-appeal kind of thing; nobody will be coming into the house to check that we've hex-tiled the bathroom floor by year-end 2006.)

2005

Refinish rear deck; repair and rebuild rear steps (current finish has worn away; the plywood on the steps is splitting and flaking away).

2006

Re-landscape rear yard; build garden structures (a trellis and archway); replace brick garden borders front and back with river rock

Remodel front bathroom (current bathroom has some period touches, like clawfoot tub and original medicine cabinet in wall; however it also has cheap modern fixtures, vinyl sheet flooring, and a single strip of wood affixed at mid-wall height to provide the illusion of wainscoating. This would be redone to provide a more traditional hex-tiled floor/beadboard-on-the-wall/nickel fixtures look).

2007

Repaint exterior of house, with repairs to exterior wood siding and trim as appropriate.

2008

Remodel rear bathroom (completely new construction, but suffering from problems similar to those in the front bathroom, with a similar solution).

2009

Refinish/repair wooden flooring in original portion of house.

2010

Replace kitchen countertops with soapstone (or material with similar qualities); repair/rehab kitchen cabinets as necessary.

Rebuild fireplace in dining area (new construction; currently has a very contemporary look) with more period-appropriate mantel and tiles; add built-in shelving to fireplace area.

Replace flooring in kitchen/dining area (currently an inexpensive laminate) with a more stylistically compatible alternative � either wood finished to match the flooring in the original part of the house, or linoleum or similar in 1920s colors/patterns.

2011

2012

2013

2014

Re-roof house
Posted by Kevin at 01:02 PM | Comments (0)

December 14, 2005

Picture Time (Part 1)

Before I catch up on cruise pictures, I'd better reach back and catch up on our cute-Beagle pictures (since that's probably the best draw that we've got going for us at this point ...)

On the weekend after Thanksgiving, the four of us went up to my grandparents' cabin at Green Valley Lake. GVL is one of the lesser-known resort communities in the San Bernardino Mountains, located on Highway 18 between Running Springs and Big Bear Lake. Being lesser-known hasn't stopped the real-estate boom from coming to Green Valley; within a short walk of the cabin, five other cabins were up for sale and two new ones were being built.

(Click on any of these pictures to get a larger version of that image.)

This was Digory's first trip to the cabin, so he had to wander around and thoroughly sniff out the place, but Scout is an old hand and immediately fell back into her usual cabin routine.
We always had at least one dog sitting vigil at the front window, because you never know when somebody (or, God forbid, somebody walking a dog!) might go walking by on the road outside.
Digory actually likes it when people do this.
Extreme close-up! (Photo credit: Shelby)
Given the way that Digory follows Scout around, and Digory's penchant for cuddling with anything that's not moving, it was inevitable that both dogs would end up sharing the big armchair (much to Scout's dismay, but making for plenty of cute-Beagle photo opportunities).
Part of being at the cabin (or pretty much any vacation home, I'd wager) is reading the magazines and comic books that previous generations have left behind. After reacquainting myself with the secret stash of Archie comic digests that I left in a closet back in the late 80s, I moved on to the National Geographics in the hallway bookshelf.
The August 1963 issue was a love letter to the Walt Disney Corporation, with pages and pages devoted to activities at the Disney Studios and Disney's relatively new themepark, Disneyland. In the front were two ads of interest, one from the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce ("The ideal year-round community in which to live, work and prosper"); the second, from the Disneyland Hotel ("This IS Southern California ... New Tower Suites July 1st").

The article ends with Disney musing over what might happen to his empire after his death, but then essentially dismissing the exercise, because he planned to be around for a long time to come but thanks to lung cancer after a lifetime of smoking, he died just three years later (and the empire went into a nosedive).

Posted by Kevin at 10:42 AM | Comments (0)

December 11, 2005

Hi!

We were away on a cruise this week six nights through Mexico on Celebrity Cruises' GTS Infinity but now we're back. More about that trip soon.

Between my getting-ready-for-crusing lack of blog entries and the dogged tenacity of the blog-spamming commenters and trackback-pingers (triggering the blog's update mechanisms with each porn-hawking comment or ping), things went blank around here in my absence. Looks like it's time to drop our rickety MovableType 2.63 + MT-Blacklist setup around here and upgrade to the latest and greatest version of MT.

It took me a few days to get used to the motion of the ship (no over-the-rail nausea, just a general disquiet); now that we're back on land, it may take me a few days to get used to that again. I'm sitting in my desk chair on solid ground, but it still feels like we're moving back and forth, up and down.

Unintentional mean trick: big things happened in the halls of my beneficent employer while we were away on the cruise. The group of unfortunates who had their jobs efficiency-through-synergizationed out of existence were supposed to get their notices last Friday. (Right before Christmas, just like the villain in a bad movie.) I wasn't expecting to be laid off, but still, you never know, and my heart sank as I walked up the steps yesterday and found a DHL express envelope from The Employer waiting for me on the doormat. I opened it with great caution and shaking fingers to find inside ... an American Express gift certificate. Each manager gets a certain amount of money per employee to throw a holiday party, and since I'm remote, my cost-center manager in San Jose sent me a gift check for the equivalent amount. Ha ha! Thanks, boss! Merry (phew) Christmas, everyone!

Posted by Kevin at 10:08 AM | Comments (1)