Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Shuttlebration road closures

Normally I don't rebroadcast this kind of mainstream news info, but the road closures associated with Shuttlebration don't seem to have been well-publicized.  If it had not been for the CCISD robo-dialer leaving me a voice mail, I would not have known that there were road closures at all.  I thought they were simply barging this thing up Clear Lake to its intersection with Carleton-Sometimes-Cow Bayou (see end of post for explanation) near NASA 1 and taking it to Space Center Houston from that nearby point - I had no idea it would have a big mobility impact.
(Video shows scenes as the Shuttle mock-up Explorer leaves Florida en route to Houston).

Anyway, from the CCISD news release website, here are the road closures summarized, and kudos to Elaina Polsen's office for blasting this info far and wide:

  •  The Kemah Bridge will be closed to all vehicle and pedestrian traffic for about 30 minutes between noon and 1 p.m.
  • The eastbound and westbound right lanes of NASA Parkway from Upper Bay Road to Space Center Boulevard will be closed beginning at 11 a.m. When event traffic subsides, the westbound lane will reopen. The eastbound lane will remain closed from Lagoon Drive to Space Center Boulevard.
  •  The eastbound right lane of NASA Parkway will remain closed from Lagoon Drive to Space Center Boulevard.
  •  NASA Parkway will be closed from El Camino Real to Space Center Boulevard from 5 a.m. to 9 a.m.
  •  The NASA 1 Bypass will be closed to eastbound traffic from 5 a.m. to 9 a.m.
And yes, that funny little bayou you bridge as you are driving on NASA 1 near El Camino has two names.  I don't know why - I just know that it's been like that a long, long time. 
THIS bayou.  (Googlegrab)
What, you're not going to tell me you never noticed an actual bayou there, are you?!
It used to be printed in legal descriptions literally as "Carleton Bayou some times called Cow" or "Carleton sometimes Cow".  If anyone has any insight into what's behind this most ancient and obscure Clear Lake trivia, I would so love to hear it - email me at -at- gmail, please!
Screengrab from Google.  I can't access this content because it's behind a paywall, but there is that funny reference, all the way back in 1929.

Election notes

As I've noted before, this is a lifestyle blog much more than an "issues" blog (I'll leave all that controversial local stuff to The League City Blog), but every once in a while, some local "issue" deserves a comment.

I hope y'all voted in yesterday's primary because in many respects, it's THE election around here.  So many Republicans will run either unopposed or effectively-unopposed in the general election that, really, the choice of leaders gets made now and in the associated coming run-offs.  In our neck of the woods, it's not so much a competition between R and D as it is between R and R. 

The only candidate with whom I personally spoke at any length was County Sheriff candidate John Kinard, who it now looks like will be in a run-off with Henry Trochesset.  I was impressed by Kinard's personable, approachable style - clearly a thoughtful man quite capable of mentally integrating all the complexities of any given situation that a Texas Sheriff might face.  I'm a fairly conservative person myself in many (tho' not all) respects, but if there's one thing that rubs me the wrong way, it's that swaggering Republican machismo that has flourished like a bad disease in the wake of the extremely-polarized politics we've seen develop in America over the past number of years.  Kinard definitely did not strike me as embodying that stereotype.

In that conversation with Kinard, I delivered one message on behalf of Centerpointe subdivision: if League City and Galveston County decide to pursue the development of a large municipal complex including a new jail on the City's large undeveloped West Walker Street tract, they will face organized opposition from many people in this neighborhood and our surrounding sister neighborhoods.
Reproduction of a map from my original blog post.  Jails do not belong smack in the middle of bedroom residential communities.
I first blogged about that issue a year ago in this post which, in turn, was largely predicated on this Galveston County Daily News article that stated, among other things, "Officials from the city and Galveston County have discussed a potential partnership on the project, with the county possibly running jail operations..."

In my original post, I enumerated reasons why I thought this was a bad location for municipal operations that would include expanded jail facilities, and potentially a City-County jail facility at that. 

In response to my comments, Kinard noted, "That issue is dead for lack of funds".  I took this to mean that no corresponding bond election is going to be called in the near future.

That's nice, but what I would have preferred to hear, rather than "That issue is dead for lack of funds" would have been "That issue is dead for lack of common sense."  But for the moment, we'll take what we can get.

If I have an opportunity to speak with Trochesset on the same issue, I'll do it and report on my findings here.  Not that the County Sheriff will get to call the shots on it, but it's good to know where key players stand. 

In the meantime, get out and vote.  There will be run-off elections coming soon.

Speaking of this election, one of my great regrets (wah!!) was not getting good photo coverage of the Calder Road County Annex prior to the close of early voting.  It was an overwhelmingly obscene orgy of signage and crowds of political hecklers, to the point where this GCDN blog entry noted that the police were called to restore basic order.
Photo taken yesterday afternoon as the polls were open.  The Calder Road Annex was an early voting location, but not a regular polling place, which is why it looked so quiet yesterday, as opposed to the madness of the day before.
How the heck did they get that place cleaned up as fast as they did?!  There must have been a thousand bandit signs in front of it!!  And not only did they get all that propaganda stripped off their property, they even got their lawn mowed!!

Anyway, a lost Kodak moment, regrettably.  I need to be more on the ball.

Monday, May 28, 2012

To everything turn, turn, turn

Hallelujah and pass the mustard... nice bright flashing yellow mustard! 

In case you haven't noticed yet, the City of League City finally progressed in its left turn modification plan all the way to West Walker Street and State Highway 96.  The left from 96 onto northbound Walker is now a flashing yellow.
Facing east on SH 96, Centerpointe to the left of the photo.  Previously you would see only red or green as the persistent options here.  Now the flashing yellow left turn yield option has been instituted.
Closer look at the signage.  This means you can turn left after yielding to oncoming traffic. 
I first encountered these flashing lights on FM 518 a month or two ago.  They took me by surprise, because I hadn't heard the announcements concerning them (they were probably operative for quite some time by that point given that the City started making these changes around the beginning of this year, but I avoid FM 518 like the plague). 

It turns out (pun intended) that League City produced a PSA informing the traveling public of how these things work.  Here it is if you'd like to check it out:

Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Sky is Blue, Part 1: Painting the patio ceiling

Those of you who have followed this blog for the past year and a half will recognize that I have a mild obsession with property values. 

This obsession derives more from a quality-of-life concern than it derives from a profit motive: if fifty or a hundred bucks can substantially improve the "feel" of your suburban gem (and therefore it's re-sale value), why not?!

Case in point. 

We paid for the proverbial "outdoor room" builder option on our house, the attached covered patio, 10 feet by 14 feet in size.  If I'm recalling correctly, it was an extra $5,600 on the base price, which was the deal of the century as far as I'm concerned.  About $40 per square foot for an entire extra living space wired for electricity and (in our case) a gas line for the BBQ.  It's a room that does not have two of its four walls, but who cares?!  Every other room in our house has all of its expected walls.  It's good to mix things up - walls vs. no walls. 
The "patio" that came standard was a simple 10' x 10' free-standing un-covered concrete slab.  The "optional cov'd patio" was larger and fully-integrated into the slab and roofline.
But of course, in taking delivery of this build option, we had to go with what the builder provided in the way of standard finishes, which in our case, was the same brown paint ("Squirrel") used on the rest of the house trim.  This resulted in the following patio color scheme:
  • Brown bricks on two interior walls.
  • Brown bricks on two exterior support columns. 
  • Brown paint on the trim and soffit
  • Brown paint on the ceiling. 
  • And just to finish things out, a greyish brown concrete floor.
Way, way, too much brown.  The down-side of these attached patios, especially if they are large like this one, is that if they are painted wrong, they start looking like the Black Hole of Calcutta

No camera is ever going to expose this type of scene properly without extensive re-jiggering, but you get the idea: bright blue sky, dark patio.
The solution to this issue was obviously to lighten up the ceiling considerably over the brown monotone used by the builder. 

The question was, lighten it up with what?!

White was an obvious option, but white is so 1970.  (And 1980.  And 1990.  And 2000.)  So I decided to go with the other obvious option:  blue to correlate with the blue sky that was constantly manifesting just on the other side of the soffit.
I never choose colors without first doing extensive testing.  For Part 1 and Part 2 of these blog posts (Part 2 to be published later), I broke a personal record and actually blew through TEN color trial samples, but only five of those were needed to constrain the patio ceiling.  Part 2 will reflect a much more challenging project. 
The point here is not to create a ceiling that screams "BLUE!"  It's to create a ceiling that feels light and airy and non-oppressive.  If the color BLUE jumps out and slaps you upside the head when you step onto your patio, this indicates that you've overshot your mark and added too much blue. 

You can see from these test spots above that many of the shades ranged into aqua.  Aqua did not sit well with me in part because it seemed to clash with all the surrounding green shrubs and trees. 

Here's another view looking straight up, to incorporate both the sky and the patio ceiling for color comparison.
I ended up going with the very generic sky-blue shade all the way at bottom of this photo, which I had mixed as Valspar Exterior Satin Finish (note that the URL is not an exact product match) in the shade "Woodlawn Blue Angel" (102-22, 103-8.5, 105-1.5). 

The "satin" part is probably just as important as the shade itself.  The covered patio was absorbing too much light.  Having a ceiling paint that is reflective helps brighten it.  A flat paint would have seemed dull.
As soon as I started rolling it on, I could see that it was going to make a HUGE positive difference in the brightness of the space. 

Make sure to use painter's tape if you tackle a job like this.  I left the trim pieces as brown so that they would help define the roof-line. 
The finished product.
Note that the light pattern near photo right is sunlight reflecting off a water feature down below.
Another view of the ceiling superimposed against the adjacent sky.
No more Black Hole of Calcutta.
I don't think I nailed "the perfect color" with this project.  There's still a tiny bit of an undesirable aqua overtone to this shade, but it's not so far off the mark to prompt me to re-do the job.  And when I walk out onto the patio now, I do feel like there's a huge weight lifted off my shoulders.  So, this is a big improvement for a couple hours' work and less than fifty bucks worth of paint.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of The Sky is Blue, which is where the men get separated from the boys, as far as fifty-dollar home improvement projects go.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Stick a fork in 'er - she's done!!

Walking the dog last night, I was greeted by an auspicious sight:
The last three Brighton beauties have gone under contract, sales pending.
That's right.  For the first time in subdivision history, there are no houses for sale in Centerpointe Section 9!

At this point, the rest of you in Centerpointe Sections 1 through 8 are probably going, "Thank freakin' crap!  Now our property values can finally start rebounding!"

Trust me - I feel you pain.   My husband and I re-financed in January of this year, right at the point where the final glut of spec homes (most if not all of them being Brighton) were on the open market at oh-so-tempting "close-out pricing".  Our appraisal was not a pretty sight, and we had to scrape together extra money to close our new loan.

Like, waitaminute - I'm refinancing my house, upon which I had already placed a downpayment, and I have to *bring* money to the closing table?!  Yyyyyup - that's the unhappy scenario you face when you're surrounded by unsold inventory during a refinancing. 

SO - I think we should have some kind of party in celebration of this momentous event, because NOT ONLY is Section 9 now either all sold or under contract, that means that ALL OF CENTERPOINTE is now finally complete, after more than a decade of steady development.

To get the party started, I suggest that we begin by encouraging either the developer, the builders, or the POA (whichever is responsible) to deal with the removal of these eyesores, as there is no longer any excuse for keeping them in place:
There are still four or five of them scattered through the neighborhood.  There hasn't been a model home in Centerpointe for months now, and all these signs do at this point is encourage extra traffic that nobody wants to see (plus they waste the time of people shopping for houses, as they drive around looking for the advertised model homes).
So with that I will say, congrats to Mr. Maury (the developer), the builders, and the POA for a job well done.
Just in case you need to savor the sight of the last builder SOLD sign one more time, here's a close-up.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Thar she blows...

If I had a blog category called "Life is what happens when you're making other plans", the weather-related results of the past few days would fit nicely under it.

First we had torrential rain and high winds:
I'm half tempted to make this photo into the new blog frontispiece, it's just so.... random.
And then we had torrential wind and high rains:
That red dot at photo center is our recycle rolly-cart about which I blogged previously.  It's 250 feet west of where we left it the night before.
Upon seeing both of our trash receptacles all the way down at the next street intersection, I had to wonder... did the rain really do that, or was someone engaging in mischief?! 

Our security cameras told the tale:
All is normal as of about 3:00 a.m. 
One trash and one recycle can are where they need to be (my husband put out the recycle can last night by accident... recyclables are only collected on Wednesdays).
Uh-oh.  The recycle can bites the dust, and you can see that the trash can has moved its position, although it's still upright.
Trash and recycle cans are now on the lam.  Given the torrential rain, the camera image is a bit fuzzy so this is difficult to see, but by this time, the entire street was under water.
Recycle can now has a sizeable lead...
Going, going, going, gone...
...only to be followed by the larger 96-gallon trash can.
So yeah, that's how bad the street flooding was.  The thing you have to remember is that both cans were full of trash and recyclables.  They were heavy.  And still, the extent of the street flooding was able to sweep them away like that.  That's a lotta lotta watta. 

And we here in Section 9 never got our electricity back until 10:00 a.m. this morning.  I think it was off for about seven hours.

Point of wisdom from Centerpointe's original developer - I remember him saying this during one of the previous POA meetings:  Don't ever allow anything to plug any of the inlet grates in Centerpointe.  This is a fairly new subdivision and generally speaking, it was hydraulically engineered to handle the kind of rain we had last night - about five inches in just a few hours.  However, if any of the grates were ever to get plugged, flooding could result.  I can't find a good URL for this, but a few years ago, part of the South Loop flooded significantly and it appeared to have occurred largely because a major inlet got plugged by cardboard boxes.  It looked as if perhaps some of the local businesses had stacked some cardboard in their yards, and it got swept away by rains.  The blockage resulted in a massive mess with many cars and buildings being put under water.  So watch out for front-yard lawn furniture, childrens toys, recyled cardboard and other materials set out for pickup, etc. that could mobilize in a heavy storm and cause the same type of water back-up here.

To further underscore the importance of good subdivision drainage, let me share a bit of additional information and history here. 

Back in April 2009, before we decided to build in Centerpointe, we were house-shopping in a different League City neighborhood and got caught in a rainstorm of similar intensity to the one that occurred on Friday.  This photo shows the unhappy result:
There's our intrepid real estate agent standing next to the "For Sale" sign of the house we were viewing that afternoon.  You can see that those two cars parked across the street are toast; water has gotten into their engines.  Fortunately, we had pulled our vehicle into the sellers' driveway for the showing, and so it did not get flooded out.
Not only did numerous houses and cars get flooded in this event, we got stuck inside the house we were viewing FOR SIX HOURS!!  We basically had to phone up the sellers and tell them that we were literally trapped inside their house and had to remain there for the rest of the day.  We kicked off our shoes, flopped on their couch and watched their TV for the duration; there was nothing else we could do. 

I'm not going to identify the subdivision where this atrocity occurred (it wasn't Centerpointe), but the maker of this YouTube video below identifies it. 

Moral of the story once again: Don't ever let anything interfere with subdivision drainage.  I don't know what caused the problem shown here, but clearly, something was a massive problem.