Discolor Online

Weblog of the sweetest person you never want to piss off.


Heating a House

When Pramas and I bought this house we were thrilled to be able to get a newly constructed home in the city and on the transit lines. We're still pretty thrilled with our house, though we have expanded to fill it and sometimes wish for things like a basement for dedicated game space and a spare bedroom that would give us room for guests.

The house came with several nifty features such as cable jacks and outlets in every room (not quite as nifty as Tim's full-wired house with the media closet and embedded surround-sound speaker system, but good enough to get cable and internet in any/all rooms of our choosing), a porch and fenced yard, and a "state of the art" and energy efficient hydronic radiant heating system. And, I have to admit that in general our house is easy to heat so I guess it was doing its job.

Unfortunately, problems with the hot water system popped up here and there around the development. The SHA's rental properties were among the first to be discovered. There was a bit of a minor scandal when it was discovered that the SHA not only knew about the defective piping used in the building of all our houses but had been fixing those failed systems without bothering to inform the Homeowner's Association or the other property owners. We even got a little press coverage when the SHA finally disclosed what they knew to the homeowners and we found out that information included knowledge that they'd "found unacceptable levels of lead in drinking water pipes." After much brouhaha and water testing around the development the lead thing was ruled to be an isolated issue (corrected a year before the homeowners even learned of it) but a lawsuit erupted over the defective pipes and the SHA's mishandling of the HOA when they had control.

That lawsuit has finally settled and to our initial relief, it seemed that we were going to receive a settlement check to cover the necessary repairs> In fact, we have indeed received a check. Unfortunately for me, after looking at the two operations that are offering "discounted" quotes (basically, a group rate for the 165 or so homes involved) to replace the system, it's clear that this settlement will only barely cover the basics of the work (the actual replacing of the pipes and water heater) and none of the "additional costs" (ripping up the walls, floors, or ceilings to get to the pipes; drywalling; re-flooring if necessary, repainting) not to mention that we would have to vacate our house for about a week.

So, I've been looking at other options. Until I hear back from the plumbers, I don't even know if the affected pipes were for heating only or if they're all the same pipes that bring water to the taps throughout the house. If the latter, we're kinda screwed. If we have some leeway, it might be possible to just cap off the "heating" pipes and leave them alone, replace the water heater, and then substitute electric heaters in the walls where the electric blowers for the hydronic system already exist. We don't have any ducts built into the house so central heating (or central air) aren't viable options. I've researched heat pumps and ductfree split system air conditioning. Even considered a gas or electric fireplace (though we'd have to seriously reduce the number of bookshelves taking up the walls in the house to do that).

We don't typically have to turn on the heat in our house until sometime in November but there's a ticking time bomb in the walls and I don't want to have to face it failing in the middle of January, or during any crazy Snowpocalypse action. If we have to go with replacing the hydronic system with a similar one, the "group pricing" offer we've got in hand from the two plumbers the HOA recruited isn't going to last forever.

So. Decisions have to be made. Soon. If anyone knows any good plumbers, HVAC experts, or reasonable and reliable general contractors in our area, I'm taking references and actively investigating my options! Or, if you can think of any other heating options that I haven't mentioned here (as Evan did when he noted that I didn't necessarily have to go with another hydronic system at all) I'd love to hear from you.


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Prortland, the GR Summit, and yet more travel

I started to write about my visit to Portland but it turned out to be a little more emotionally taxing than I thought it was going to be. Took me a while to get back to it.

Being back in my mom's house is always hard for me. I love my mom but I can't understand her life. I don't understand her relationship with her husband and it is only with the most strenuous effort that I can tolerate him. While my mom was in surgery, he was in the bar. While my mom was propped up with ice packs and pain pills and trying to recover, he was chain smoking 3 feet away. I drove her to and from the hospital, I filled her prescriptions, I brought her soup and ice packs and pain pills. He went out for a morning bender, staggered in so drunk he could hardly stand at noon and started bellowing. My mother actually believed she was going to get up and fix him lunch! Over my dead body, I said. He passed out for a while until his grandson called him up a couple hours later to invite him out for more drinks... so he staggered out for another "toddy". I'm stretched taut by the stress of being around this stuff for an hour, let alone several days.

Thankfully I had a couple of breaks in the action and I they really did save my sanity. On third day of the stay, my friend Greg (who used to live just down the street while we were growing up) came by and the two of us went to and end of summer celebration hosted by another childhood friend. There were a dozen or so Canby High alums in attendance, few I'd been close to in school but all of whom were great fun now that we're adults. I had a lovely time, shared good food and drink, and both bitched about (and then forgot about) the situation at my mom's house.

My brother returned from a month of doing some doctor-stuff out in New York in the midst of my mom's recovery so he came down to check in on her and the two of us went out for dinner together, meeting up with his awesome girlfriend and her brother for some sushi in Portland proper. Afterward, Chad and Megan and I hung out for a while at her place, talked about their residency applications and their time in Haiti. It was SO nice and how I'd REALLY rather spend my "family time".

Not long after recovering from my Portland excursion, we hosted Green Ronin's annual summit out here in Seattle again. This year I felt somewhat subdued, no doubt from the emotional hangover I feel whenever I spend time at my mom's house and around her husband and his spawn. We stuck pretty close to home for our dining breaks: breads and pastries from Columbia City Bakery, pizza and ice cream at Flying Squirrel Pizza, brunch at Verve Wine Bar, lunch at Calamity Jane's and Georgetown Liquor Company. Our meetings were efficient, productive, and on task. Before I knew it, the summit was over, the boys had returned home and I was prepping for the Diamond Retailer Summit in Baltimore five days later.

Normally we let Hal handle the Baltimore summit himself since he's virtually local, being in Alexandria and all. This year I thought we'd have made a long-anticipated announcement and we'd need the extra staff but through a comedy of errors and miscommunication announcements have not been made, demos we thought were not scheduled were scheduled (and then weren't done after all) and the "easy" trip that was supposed to involve me staying on the cheap with my business partner ended up being additionally complicated by Hal's house being without running water (hello hotel!).

Those folks who follow me on Twitter were able to follow the travails of my return trip in real time as I shared my frustrations 140 characters at a time. 4:20am pick-up from Shuttle Express, aboard my plane at 6-something, sitting on the tarmac for some hazy time period where I was falling in and out of a doze and wishing the plane would take off already so I could recline my oh-so-"comfy" middle seat. Returning to the gate area around 8am to remove a passenger who claimed to be too ill to travel (though I saw her gathering her things and walking off the plane and she didn't seem to be sick at all) and finally taking off. Arriving for my connection in San Francisco 40 minutes too late to make my connection and finding out that the next (and only) flight to Seattle was 9 hours later. Deciding to take the BART to the city to kill time and have lunch, sitting on the BART while a "police incident" closed the station we were trying to reach. Finally boarding the plane and getting my first class upgrade (yay!) but having to sit next to a douche bag. Luckily, a couple of free beers and a complimentary fruit and cheese plate made up for it. Finally arriving in Seattle, standing at baggage claim for an hour and confirming that my bag was not on the plane with me but had been sent to Las Vegas earlier in the day. Deciding that with the day's luck in mind, I just wasn't up to risking taking the last light rail/bus connection to my house and paying out for the $35 cab ride home. Woo, it's been quite a while since I've had a travel day quite like that.

Now I'm home and plan to be here for a while. I can't quite shake this feeling of utter exhaustion. I'm sleeping too much, tired within an hour or two of waking up, nodding off at my computer, falling asleep on the couch at night while trying to watch tv with Chris or Kate. No rest for the weary, however! In addition to catching up on Green Ronin work, I also have to coordinate the repairs to our heating system in the house, hopefully before the actual cold weather comes. The New Holly homeowners finally received a settlement in the lawsuit over the defective pipes used in the heating systems in our homes. We were thrilled at this news because we've been living with the inevitable complete system failure hanging over our heads for years while this lawsuit played out. Unfortunately, it didn't take us long to figure out that the settlement wasn't actually going to be enough to cover the system replacement. Or, rather, that the settlement *could* cover the system replacement, just not all the "incidental" repairs that we'd need to make. See, the pipes and the water heater and so on are covered in the repair estimates but taking out and replacing the walls to get to the pipes (which, with the hydronic heating system, run through all the walls in the house), repainting, re-flooring (if they have to tear up the floors, too) and so on. We're going to have to come up with several thousand dollars in additional funds in order to put our house back together once they're done and the clock is ticking. Nothing like a little extra stress to keep the heart pumping.

Three weeks out from my 40th birthday and I'm feeling about 100 years old.

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Blue Scholars, My Neighbors, and Snowpocalypse

Thanks to the excellent Rainier Valley Post, I discovered that neighborhood hiphopsters The Blue Scholars had put up a video they shot during Snowpocalypse 08.

Longtime readers might remember that I posted another Blue Scholars video (Joe Metro) that showed some of the depth of Seattle and some scenes I know too well. I even commented that I'd probably ridden the 48 bus with those guys at some point.

Well, the new Snowpocalypse video is even closer to home! Want to see New Holly? This video is full of scenes of the streets near my house, the townhouses of Phase 3, the fences and porches of my neighbors. You can see the intersections we drive through, catch a glimpse of the scary sub-par Safeway we try to avoid, the view of the power lines that arch over the Chief Sealth walking trail that winds through New Holly uniting the Phases. Holy cow, Geo and Sabzi aren't just my neighbors, they're my neighbors!

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My Welcome Home

I guess I didn't do a very good job of reporting in regularly from GenCon. I recovered from staying out too late after the Diana Jones Awards and was a good girl every other night, going back to my room to run credit card receipts instead of hitting the industry parties and getting enough sleep so that I could work my shifts at the booth every day without feeling like misery. The result was that I had one lunch with a friend, one dinner with another, and the rest of the con I was bouncing from person to person like a pinball... never having satisfactory time with anyone. Before I knew it, GenCon was over and I hadn't even seen the whole exhibit hall.

I found out after the fact that the hall opened to Very Important Gamers on Thursday, though that is a minor detail that the entire Green Ronin staff was not aware of at the time. Not that we could have gotten set up any earlier, with four of our seven staffers unable to arrive before Wednesday evening. Still, it explains why people like this commenter at Nikchick.com felt pissed off at my inability to provide service with a smile before the booth was set up and while the cash register wasn't functional. GenCon could have made it more clear that they were going to let gamers pay for early access to the exhibit hall... had I paid $500 for early access and not been able to buy things, I would have been more than miffed. As an exhibitor, I was not thrilled to learn that we would not have late night access to the exhibit hall to set up on Wednesday and was really struggling to get set up Thursday morning. I am even more unhappy now to hear from previously happy and loyal customers that I've lost their business because of the fiasco that was "VIP HOUR" at GenCon. Super terrific.

Thankfully, that episode and the blessedly brief bout of food poisoning from Champions' really gross salad (which I was really glad I didn't eat all of or I'm sure things would have been a lot worse) were the only low-lights of the con. Overall GenCon was a smashing success, the mood upbeat, the energy level high and positive. The ENnies were fun as always and I was personally very pleased with how the awards were spread out among big and small. I really wanted to see Hobby Games: the 100 Best take the Gold this year but I'm still mighty pleased about getting the silver. Everything went by distressingly fast and before I knew it, the convention was over and far to many of my industry friends had passed through and gone without my ever seeing more than a glimpse of them.

I returned home to live and happy bunnies (THANKS to Marc and Michelle for taking care of them!) and had some bunny cuddle therapy to help me come down from the unpleasantness of screaming children and the unbelievably foul gas attack of Stinky Fart Man (who had people groaning for aisles). This summer has been unusually intense as far as unpleasant plane trips but at least once we've arrived at our destinations it's been worth it.

Of course, all is not always sunshine and roses, even when we're not traveling. I arrived home to find that not only did the state incorrectly take Green Ronin's quarterly tax payment out of my personal checking account (something no doubt my own fault, as I was trying desperately to get everything sorted out before leaving the country and being on the road for two weeks but an unpleasant problem for me no matter the fault) but then yesterday I got to talk with some neighborhood police officers about the youths with guns running around in our neighborhood. There was a home invasion and at least two other incidents involving these thugs before they were caught, but they dumped their guns somewhere around the neighborhood and the police did not find those. I hope someone responsible finds the guns and not any of the youths or small children in the neighborhood! After the excitement with the police and the K9 unit, a couple different groups of kids showed up in the park for their favorite activity of pot smoking and bragging about the violent activities they were involved in. Could be just kids bragging about things they had nothing to do with to make themselves seem big and cool, or it could be that these kids really ar no longer satisfied with stashing pot and booze in our park and leaving behind broken bottles and graffiti but are moving up into bigger crimes. Not sure, but either way, it has put a bit of a damper on our homecoming.

Kate is home on Thursday, which means summer "vacation" is just about over. We're taking her to PAX over Labor Day weekend and then she'll start school while we head to Vegas for the Alliance Open House. Then, I think, convention season will officially be over.

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Response from the SHA

Forgot to mention that the Seattle Housing Authority is all over the issue of possible lead in the water at New Holly (which I guess is officially spelled NewHolly). January 4th they had people all over the neighborhood sticking letters on doors. I transcribed it here for future reference.

January 4, 2008

Dear NewHolly residents:

There has been news coverage over the past day or two indicating that there may be a problem a NewHolly with high levels of lead in the drinking water. I want to personally assure you that NewHolly's water has been tested, does not contain high levels of lead, and is well within acceptable standards.

When homes and rental properties in Phase I of NewHolly were constructed, a heating system that used new technology was used. This hydronic system combined hot water for heating with water used for washing, showers, etc. Beginning around 2004, problems with the heading system began to appear. One problem was that the tubing was corroded and leaked, making the system ineffective. This problematic system was used in Phase I only.

In 2006 SHA hired Pressler Forensics, Inc. to investigate why these systems were failing, so that SHA could take appropriate corrective action. During their investigation, Pressler staff tested the water in 19 rental units. Samples from one of these units showed elevated levels of lead in the water. Within one month, SHA had all of these 19 rental units re-tested by a different company, and the results showed no elevated lead levels.

We have been discussing the heating system issue with the NewHolly Homeowners Association since last spring. The Association asked for a copy of the Pressler report and we agreed to share it. Unfortunately, the Association did not receive the report until recently. I want to assure you that we did not intentionally withhold it. We did not anticipate that the issue of lead in NewHolly drinking water would rise to the current level of concern because we believed the re-testing that took place immediately established the water is safe.

Still, I understand your concerns—everyone wants to be certain that the water we are drinking is safe. In order to put this to rest, we will immediately contract with an independent testing lab to sample the water in the homes of NewHolly Phase I residents. We will ask the lab to test a statistically valid sample of homeowner units to measure lead levels in the water. As soon as these results are available, I will communicate them to you.

If you have further questions, please call General Counsel James Fearn (206-615-3570) or Communications Director Virginia Felton (206-615-3506). I am sorry that lack of complete information has caused concern for you. Thank you for your patience.

Tom Tierney
Executive Director

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Seattle Housing Authority

The Seattle Housing Authority is "a public corporation that provides affordable housing to more than 25,500 people who earn less than 80 percent of Seattle's median income." At their website they are eager to tell you that their mission "is to enhance the Seattle community by creating and sustaining decent, safe and affordable living environments that foster stability and self-sufficiency for people with low incomes."

The Seattle Housing Authority acted as the "master builder" in the construction of the neighborhood now known as New Holly. New Holly used to be known as Holly Park, as crime-ridden and run-down a section of public housing as e'er was known in Seattle. New Holly, they're proud to trumpet to the world, is an "award winning" redevelopment project, a federally funded Hope VI project. The community is "unique" and "model for the rest of the nation to follow".

Pramas and I were among the first lucky families to buy into Phase One. When we bought in, our Home Owner's Association was controlled by members of the SHA. That continued until sometime this year. The SHA owns the housing that is side-by-side with individual homeowners and rented out to Section 8 tenants. Before we ever bought our house, the builders had in place covenants for a mandatory Home Owner's Association (the management of which I have railed on about in this blog at length in the past). The items of "concern" to the "homeowners" were laid out by the SHA (such as what colors we're allowed to paint our porch steps or how our bushes need to be maintained or the ban on clotheslines, garden sheds and dog houses). Whether those things are actually "of concern" the the majority of homeowners in this community is something I would question, especially when we have issues with graffiti, reckless youths, and brazen drug and alcohol use in the parks we've set aside and pay to maintain (in theory for the community's children). It was the SHA-controlled board that knowingly enticed people into the community by setting initial HOA dues unsustainably low and led our community into a several-year "budget shortfall" that had to be made up with a special assessment, among other things.

Of course, the number of homeowners needed to pass *any* resolution (or, indeed, to even legally vote in our homeowner-controlled board of directors) is so outrageously high that it's virtually impossible to get the community to make any changes. For the better part of this year we were ham-strung by poor homeowner voter turnout and couldn't even get the SHA's minions OFF the board! It seems that we've FINALLY gotten actual homeowners in control of the board. I was already irritated about their treatment of the neighbor who wanted to open the wine bar in the commercial building the SHA owns, which I blogged about around Christmas, and I can't say I'm unhappy to see the SHA's employees OFF the board at this stage.

One might wonder why I'm going into the entire preamble for the SHA's involvement in our community at this point. New Holly was on the news today. Thanks to a neighborhood mailing list, I was alerted to the fact (though I happened to see the mobile news van parked in the New Holly Community Center parking lot this afternoon and might have clued in that something was up anyway) and was able to tune in. What did the news have to say? Well, for starters it seems that New Holly residents are about to learn their heating systems are malfunctioning and their drinking water may be exposed to lead. Oh yeah! Woo! LEAD. Awesome! Not like we have families with small children living in these houses or anything! The new report goes on to say A June 2006 report conducted for the Seattle Housing Authority found serious problems with the heating systems of 120 units of the NewHolly Development. JUNE 2006. NINETEEN MONTHS AGO. What the news fails to draw out is that the SHA built ALL the houses in this development and sold people like me some of the houses at market price to help subsidize the rest of the development... but I'll lay money that those 120 units that were tested were all units owned by the SHA. Individual homeowners were not informed of what the SHA learned and though word is trickling out many of them still do not know!

Adding insult to injury there was a woman from the SHA who spoke to the media. Her comment? "I think they should be cautious about the systems in their homes and we will work with them through that caution." We should be cautious and they will work with us through that caution? What the fuck does that even mean?! It has no meaning whatsoever. The news mentions that the SHA is facing having to replace 120 waters systems at $20K a pop... but doesn't mention that's only the units the SHA itself owns. Each of the individual homeowners are going to be on the hook for those costs if our homes are affected by this issue. In any other circumstance, the builder who used the defective materials to build our homes would be held accountable but the SHA seems to believe that they're off the hook because, despite being the "master builder" for the project, they're a public agency and are thus somehow above responsibility. Frankly, I think they're unused to having to deal with people of means who have the contacts, money, and general wherewithal to fight back! Poverty-stricken tenants are entirely at their mercy, have to abide by "tenant obligations and responsibilities" or be thrown out. HomeOWNERS, professionals who can afford houses that cost up to $450K or more, are on much more level ground; lawyers and the media are involved now and the SHA had better get their act together soon.

I wonder what the SHA commissioners will have to say.

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Grinchy Neighborhood News

As Chris and I were coming home from a holiday outing I was reminded of the plans one of our New Holly neighbors shared with the community e-mail list to start a wine bar in the newish retail storefronts that are currently sitting empty or under-used in the area where my car was wrecked during the renovation (and the city, the SHA, the construction company and the subcontractors all gave me the run around until I gave up on getting any compensation). The construction is now long over, the area is being "revitalized" and there are opportunities for business. Aaron wanted to open a wine bar but was meeting resistance from the SHA (owners of the building) who decided they didn't want "that kind" of business in their building...after Aaron had gotten an initial okay and pitched his proposal.

Members of the community complained and the SHA rethought their decision and Aaron moved forward. The project reached the stage of applying for a liquor license and again some of us joined in a campaign of letter writing for support. My letter of support is in the official record.

Apparently someone else had the same idea this season, as I came home to an e-mail from another member of our community asking the same question I'd been wondering, "How's the wine bar coming?"

Dead. Dead before it even began because the co-owner of the building, the medical clinic that is housed there, refused to even consider the proposal. Refused to even meet with our community member to talk about it. Flat no. The executive director did not want to "set a precedent" for (again) that kind of business. Among the expressions of regret and support was a message from another community member that I found very unfortunate, and that I hope is not a widespread feeling.

That member's message supported the SHA/Medical Office decision and if it had ended there I could have written it off to mere disinterest or difference of opinion. Unfortunately the message was peppered with phrases that were distressingly condescending. People need to be "culturally and socially sensitive" when starting businesses. There are other (read better) businesses that would "add positively to the community" and "not repeat mistakes from past generations". Basically, this wine bar (unlike the numerous run down skeevy bars and liquor-licensed restaurants along Martin Luther King already) would lead the members of our diverse (read includes the poor and brown) community down the road of the mistakes of the past (lives of drunkenness, sloth, and crime). Wow. That does sound really bad! We'd better do something to protect those poor people from such an eventuality... Our poster suggests his neighbor take this wine bar proposal over to Columbia City instead. (Because they're much less diverse a mile to the east? Less likely to become alcoholic bums? Because Columbia City's past is less tragic and full of mistakes?) Wow.

We already go to Columbia City or Georgetown for our fun. I guess that's going to continue, while those who know better protect us from ourselves and determine that our community "rejuvenation" be confined to adding another Quiznos or something equally "positive" to our community. Ug.

Oh, and Merry Christmas.



One Extra Hour...for Drama!

I was awoken in the middle of the night last night to male voices yelling. I stumbled in the dark to the window to see what was going on. It was about 3:30am (4:30am by my watch, which I'd failed to set back before falling asleep). Five youths (late teens, early twenties) were staggering around in the street and on the sidewalk in front of the house. The drunkest kids were fighting and falling over while the more sober kids were trying to hold them back/hold them up. At one point they charged up onto my porch, yelling, pushing and shoving, falling all over themselves. I couldn't see what was happening once they did that but they did kinda scare the crap out of me being literally up at my front door (the way they were going it was easy to imagine them accidentally crashing through the windows into my living room) so I called the police. They told me they'd send someone as soon as they could.

I watched these boys as they tried to get control of their group. There was a lot of pushing and shoving. At some point one of the boys ended up laying in the middle of the street right at the corner. No one driving around the corner would have been able to see him there before they hit him. His friends got him up and they all congregated in the kiddie park for a while with one particularly aggressive boy yelling and cursing and threatening, hitting the boys who were worst off to try to keep them from passing out. One terribly bad off kid grabbed a stick and was acting like he might have been intending to hit someone with it but it was a tiny stick and he was so drunk he could barely stand. It was no real threat but the super-aggressive kid got very aggressive with him, pushed him down to the ground hard (where he may have hit his head on the concrete... if he didn't it was a miracle of inches) and lay there unconscious while the other kid beat and kicked him. Hard. I could hear the thud of the blows from my house.

I watched, seriously concerned that someone was going to wind up injured or dead instead of just drunk. I watched them behaving this way for more than half an hour, until they roused the drunkest of them to walk and staggered up the street and out of sight.

Five minutes later the phone rang. The police were calling, wanting to know if they boys were still here. I told them the direction they'd staggered off in.

I found it hard to fall back asleep for a few hours after that. It was not how I'd anticipated spending my extra hour this weekend.



Weirdness magnet

Woke up very early this morning to find a young man parked in front of the house. On the hood of his car, he has a large stack of USA Today newspapers and he is methodically going through the stack and tearing off top right corner from all the front pages. He works his way through the stack, puts the torn corners on the driver seat, walks the stack of cornerless papers to his trunk. He walks around to the passenger side, grabs another stack and starts the whole process again.

No idea what that was about.

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Busy Day on the Narc Squad

Man, these area kids are pissing me off. Apparently, I'm pissing them off, too, since the last carload of dumbshits I scared off yelled "asshole" and "bitch" out the window at me on their way out.

Earlier today, two cars full of idiot kids decided that merely hanging out in front of my house, smoking their blunts and booming the bass wasn't enough. These two groups of geniuses were squealing their tires and peeling out up and down the street, screeching at high speed around the corners in front of the little kiddie park. There are a lot of young children around here who would have been run the hell over had they been innocently crossing the street or coming around the corner at the wrong time. That one got reported and license plate numbers have been taken down.

When I was outside with the Flexcar bringing some packages to UPS, I noticed TWO used condoms had been discarded into the gutter at some point, probably last night. Fucking disgusting.

So, tonight, when I woke up at 1:00am to the dulcet tones of yet another carload of kids and their telltale coughing, I lurked in the darkness at my open window pondering what to do. They were being noisy enough that they'd woken me from a sound sleep but not "noise complaint" noisy. They were sitting in their car on the street, not trespassing in the park after hours or something actionable. I couldn't see how many kids there were in the SUV but there were at least three and possibly more which put direct confrontation off the table. As I sat there, listening to the female vegetarian driver loudly talking about eating a piece of steak in some vegetable soup by accident (fascinating as it sounds) her cell phone rang and through coughs she started giving directions ("No, it's a little kiddie park, on a corner. Where did you just turn?") I yelled out from my dark house that they'd better move their party off somewhere else and oh no she was NOT going to bring more people out here. That gave them pause. I heard her say "Did someone say something? I thought I heard a white lady yelling at me," to which I yelled that indeed I WAS yelling at her... and she'd better take the party elsewhere. I was not Miss Popularity but they wasted no time getting the hell out of dodge, cursing me over their shoulders.

All this is on the heels of me going out and shooing four fucked up young men out of here on Monday. A couple of them were quite drunk or stoned or both. Another was very loud. There were Doritos bags and Pepsi bottles littered around their car, which was parked right in front of my house. I couldn't help myself. I came down off the porch with my most polite yet stern Mom voice and said, "Young man, is there any one of you who is not fucked up right now? Maybe you would like to take care of your friend here, he seems like he probably shouldn't be driving around in a car. And could you please pick up your trash. Don't forget that Pepsi bottle..." Unlike this most recent group, I got a round of "Sorry ma'ams" from the ones who are decent kids who still respect their mothers while the kid who was the most messed up started fighting with his friend to put the trash back on the ground. The two sane and rational kids told him to stop being stupid and bundled him into the vehicle, saying "I told you we were being too loud!"

I've been threatening to get some floodlights that I can mount on the house and point in the direction of the street. If I turned a spotlight on those cars, you can bet they'd scatter like roaches.

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The Money shot

The Money shot
Originally uploaded by Nikchick.
These young men were in the group that was here in front of my house the other day. I got the money shot this time. Called the security company but was told they're not "on site" until 3:00pm. Lovely. The cops did roll up and roust them out of the park, eventually. Though the lady cop who did all the talking wasn't exactly putting the fear into them... just sternly told them to take this shit elsewhere, not next to people's houses. She also looked right at my place while she was reading them the riot act about the neighbors complaining, so if they're at all perceptive they know exactly who complained. Not that it was hard to guess, but man, thanks for giving them a pointer.

Seriously, these guys aren't hurting anyone and I'm not a big ol' meanie who wants to ruin everyone's summer fun. In fact, in general Seattle wants pot "crime" to be a pretty low priority and in general I'm perfectly happy with that attitude. But I don't want it on my front steps and I resent that little kids can't use the park because these big kids are in there smoking and drinking and being rowdy. Oh, and the peeing in my yard/throwing the empties in my bushes thing? Yeah, I don't much like that either.

I hope they do indeed take the cop's advice and "don't come back to this park, don't come back to this street" in the future... I posted a bunch of other shots of their activities just because I had them on the camera when I was uploading the other stuff. Nothing exciting but it's a set on Flickr anyway.

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Outside my damn house

Outside my damn house
Originally uploaded by Nikchick.
Yesterday, three cars full of young men rolled up in front of my house for an impromptu party, alternately swigging from bottles of liquor and divvying up a stash of marijuana right out in the open. Eight or ten of these guys put together four or five blunts and spent at least an hour and a half practically sitting on my doorstep whooping it up. (A week or so ago one of them actually came up and sat on my porch and had a long, loud phone call until I poked my head out and asked if he needed something.) I was really pretty surprised at the brazenness of it.

Neither the police nor New Holly's security people came by this time. Eventually, one by one, the cars departed. The last, loud group were yelling about $1.95 Happy Hour and when they came back several hours later to pick up the last car left behind, at least one of the guys was swaying on his feet.

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New Holly in the news

The Seattle Times ran an article on my neighborhood last weekend.

My neighborhood is part of what amounts to a giant social experiment, spearheaded and overseen by the Seattle Housing Authority. On one hand we knew what we were getting into when we bought our home in New Holly. I knew a little of the reputation of the area, it was clear that we were going to lack amenities for a while while development caught up to the new population. Everyone was clear up front that this was going to be a "blended community" and that didn't scare me. There are some yuppie homeowners in our HOA who are very prissy about the state of the rental units or the attitudes of this ethnic group versus that ethnic group but I've lived in plenty of rental properties in my lifetime. My mom scraped her way up to working class and I know that economic disadvantage does not mean "bad people" even where it does signal challenges. I had high hopes for our neighborhood when I bought in and I still feel that hope, though I would really like to see someone open a frickin' coffee shop or nice restaurant. "Maybe when the Light Rail construction is finished," I keep telling myself.

I do have some issues with the SHA. SHA remains the biggest owner in the development, owning houses that are rental units to replace the public housing that was torn down to build these new homes; I assume it was the SHA that drafted the New Holly Homeowner's Association by-laws and the community rules which we live under (such as the "no window air conditioning units" clause or the "you can't paint your steps anything but grey" rule) as they were the only homeowners before the houses were sold to people like me. When I bought my house the HOA rules and codes were in place and I was forced to sign on to them as they were as a condition of getting my mortgage. I'm not a fan of the state the SHA-controlled HOA board left things, including the issue with faulty water-billing and the lack of proper reserve funds, or the overly-cozy relationship certain SHA board members exhibited toward the utterly incompetent and offensively poor management company the SHA-controlled board hired to "manage" our community. That is not to say that I don't appreciate certain individuals from the SHA who have tried to make this thing work well and who have represented community interests to the HOA board or the larger SHA; I'm just not willing to give the whole Seattle Housing Authority a pass for things I consider bad policy (like their admitted policy of knowingly setting initial HOA dues unsustainably low to bait people into buying in, knowing that substantial increases would be necessary but not disclosing that plan to home buyers).

Now that I've had that little rant, I think the article does a fair job of presenting some of the issues in the community while not overselling its successes or underselling its potential. I agree that language is the biggest barrier, as we saw when I was trying to get fair hearing for my Chinese-speaking neighbors. Without a common language it's very, very difficult to find anything else in common or have meaningful interactions beyond friendly smiles and waves, which is pretty much my entire relationship with my immediate neighbors. Even so, it wasn't until this last year that I met or interacted much with any of my neighbors, English-speaking or not. We barely squeaked into this neighborhood when we bought our house and while we're categorized among the white, English-speaking (let's be frank) yuppies who've bought homes here, we're really not part of that "class" either. We're not doctors, lawyers, or Microsofties. I'm fairly uncomfortable with the idea that I'm supposed to be a "role model" for my less fortunate neighbors or "help them out of poverty" as the article proposes.

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