Monday, October 20, 2008

The End of Ballardia as We Know It

Over the summer, a 694 page "Amendment to Senate Amendment to House Amendments to Senate Amendment to H.R. 3221" was passed into law.

You may know it by its Short Title, the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008.

Buried in section 3092 was a little item to upset my Housing Recovery of Ballardia Acts of 2008.

Let's read it, shall we?

(A) IN GENERAL.—Subsection (a) shall not apply to so much of the gain from the

sale or exchange of property as is allocated to periods of nonqualified use.
subparagraph (A), gain shall be allocated to periods of nonqualified use based on the
ratio which—

(i) the aggregate periods of non qualified use during the period such property
was owned by the taxpayer, bears to

(ii) the period such property was owned by the taxpayer.
(C) PERIOD OF NONQUALIFIED USE.— For purposes of this paragraph—
(i) IN GENERAL.—The term ‘period of nonqualified use’ means any
period (other than the portion of any period preceding January 1, 2009)
during which the property is not used as the principal residence of the
taxpayer or the taxpayer’s spouse or former spouse.
(ii) EXCEPTIONS.—The term ‘period of nonqualified use’ does not include— (I) any portion of the 5-year period described in subsection (a) which
is after the last date that such property is used as the principal

residence of the taxpayer or the taxpayer’s spouse,
(II) any period (not to exceed an aggregate period of 10 years) during which
the taxpayer or the taxpayer’s spouse is serving on qualified official
extended duty (as defined in subsection (d)(9)(C)) described in clause (i),
(ii), or (iii) of subsection (d)(9)(A), and

(III) any other period of temporary absence (not to exceed an aggregate period
of 2 years) due to change of employment, health conditions, or such other
unforeseen circumstances as may be specified by the Secretary.

So who Knows what this little blurb of legalese means, really. But Martin assures me that it means a change to the Capital Gains Exclusion Rule, which, before the passing of these 694 pages, allowed an individual to keep, tax-free, profits up to $250k ($500k if married filing jointly) for the sale of his or her (their) primary residence provided that person(s) had lived in the home for 2 out of the previous 5 years.

Section 3092 says that starting January 1, 2009, if that home had NOT been a primary residence (say, rented or a vacation home) for any part of those 5 years, then capital gains would ONLY be excluded for the portion of the last 5 years in which the home had been a primary residence. in it for 2 years, rent it for 3 years, and only 2/5 = 40% of the gains are now tax-free. And that appears to apply to all gains, even if it's been owned for, say, 15 years, only the last 5 count.

This presents a little problem.

You see, back in 1999, Martin rented out his condo and I rented out my house, and we proceeded to shack up together in an apartment in Belltown.

Yes, he kept the condo. And without a little action on our parts ASAP (before 1/1/09), he would be subject to the new rules for a condo he's owned for 15 years. Conveniently for him (inconveniently for me), his tenant of 3 years gave notice on October 9th.

Activity Frenzy. We are moving to the condo.

WHOSE housing recovery act is this, exactly? Certainly isn't mine.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Operation Waterlogged

In the ongoing battle of Rebecca vs. The Yard Service (Yard Service: 2, Rebecca: 0), I have come up with a creative tactic (not a "strategy", mind you) to keep the Mighty Downspout Extender attached to the house.


But not only did I permanently affix the Extender, I have also Completely Eliminated the source of the struggle by removing all grass underneath it.

Rather than leave a naked patch of dirt, I've made a little dry stream bed to handle the water runoff.

New Score - Yard Service: 2, Rebecca: 1

Saturday, August 30, 2008

If I were a decent gardener, I'd have figured this out earlier

My garden consists of a mix of self-propagating "gifts" from Dorothy, a lone row of mesclun lettuce which came up from seed, and several rows of purchased starter plants which are doing reasonably well, thanks to the Emergency Garden Rescue Attempt coordinated by my Mother. And weeds. That goes without saying.

With my lack of foresight and planning, not to mention my inclination to just pick whatever starter plants were available at the Home Despot, my vegetable section doesn't have the variety and choice that one would hope for in a garden.

Which leads to the inevitable question.

What, exactly, does one do with Kale?

Monday, August 25, 2008

The Ballardia Barbecue Index

Two Atmospheric Sciences professors at the UW, Cliff Mass and Mark Albright, have created a new metric to track our dismal weather, called the "Barbecue Index". Komo News has the full story, but in a nutshell, this index tracks the number of times since mid-March when the temperature hits 60 degrees or warmer, which appears to the floor for Barbecue weather here in Seattle. We do set our standards low here in the Emerald City of Continual Gloom.

The scientists looked through past temperature records and discovered that 2008 is the worst year of the "Barbecue Index" since 1917. And this was back in June.

Which brings to mind the Ballardia Barbecue Index.

I think we'll define the BBI as the number of days we Actually barbecued here in Ballardia. And if we want to get fancy, we might track that against the "regular" Barbecue Index to see whether our problem is weather related.
Last year, our Ballard Barbecue Season was hindered by the rotted back steps, which, both for Function and Safety, we had blocked off by our 36" GE refrigerator.
This year, with the Fisher Wood Stove out of the way and fridge relocated, we had a small problem with the Case of The Missing Back Steps.
Carpenter Jim removed the rotted back steps back in March, but replacement progress halted pending decent weather. Perhaps the Barbecue Index was directly correlated to the Carpenter Jim outdoor Construction Project Index?
Goodness resumed in July, when I returned from a Portland work-a-thon to discover a rebuilt set of back steps, sans railing. But Railing is not essential for Barbecue Access.

Leaving only the weather as our excuse.

Looking at today's forecast, you might just think there's not much reason NOT to use the grill for tonight's dinner....a little chilly for August, yes, but it meets the Barbecue Index threshold defined by our UW scientists.....Or does it?
Let's do a quick reality check, shall we?

Our forlorn, very wet outdoor dining realm:

Our very wet, rebuilt steps:

I didn't think "Partly Sunny" meant the rest of the fraction was meant to be "Partly Pouring with Thunder".

And our outdoor thermostat says 55. FIFTY FIVE at FIVE PM IN AUGUST.

Our Ballard Barbecue Index? 5 times. Maybe 6. With quality predictions like these, why not plan on a barbecue?

Saturday, August 9, 2008

The 4-letter "D" word

The last two remaining items in the bathroom - now that I've hung the Restoration Hardware towel bars - are to remove the old towel bars, do the requisite wall repair & paint touch-up, and paint the trim.

I found a little time to do everything but the trim paint last weekend.

Thanks for the action photo sweetie! I particularly like how it makes me look like Quasimoto!

But perhaps none of us are looking our best when doing home improvement tasks. I give you Martin in the Bunny Suit as an example.

Since everything's complete except the trim paint, I've declared the bathroom Done. I don't have that all-important fisheye lens that could capture the entire room in one shot, so I will present the finished product from multiple angles:

Berried Alive

The entire back fence of Ballardia's back yard is a wall of raspberries.

Fortunately they make for a low maintenance crop, requiring only a small cut-back-and-tie operation each winter to keep the raspberry plants producing. And not for the first time am I wondering WHY I do this maintenance activity, as for the two summers we have been here, the raspberry crop has been a bit more than i can handle. Not to mention that sad fact that I prefer blueberries.

What have I been doing with the crop, apart from foisting it off on friends & family?

Raspberry Tarts:

Raspberry Vinegar and Raspberry Cordials:

Berries sprinkled with Granola - adapted from a recipe posted on the Floured Apron - using ground flax seed instead of the wheat germ.

And let's not forget the 5, count 'em, FIVE stuffed gallon bags of raspberries in the ginormous freezer.

Luckily the berry season is almost over. I might even miss it when it's gone.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Congratulating myself on my Good Fortune

Interesting article in today's Seattle Times - "Heating-oil customers facing difficult choices are eyeing other energy sources"

We "faced difficult choices" in early 2007, and bit off the pricey conversion cost to natural gas. And in December of 2007, I calculated that the conversion would pay for itself in 4 years. But that was at the now reasonable-seeming cost of 3.65/gallon.

The article points out that oil prices now fluctuate between 4.38 and 4.79/gallon. If I assume $4.50, that would mean $1328 to fill up my old oil tank!! Now, we are saving 75% on fuel bills, and the conversion will take 3.1 years at these rates to pay for itself.

This must be how my friend who bought a Prius 2 years ago feels.