Gas station without pumps

2021 September 27

Cost of owning my home

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 21:34
Tags: , ,

I decided this week, for no good reason, to try to estimate how much I pay for housing and utilities.  My situation is a bit unusual for Californians, in that I’ve owned my house now for almost 35 years (so my property taxes are fairly low, because of the stupid way that Prop. 13 tax limitations favor old money), and I’ve long since paid off my mortgage.

I put together my estimates by looking at recent bill payments—for things that are roughly constant, I just looked at the most recent month, but for variable things (like natural gas billing), I looked at a full year’s billing. The hard part is trying to estimate expenses that are less frequent than annual—amortizing tree care, appliance replacement, and home maintenance.  Those estimates are really very rough.

Appliance replacement is based on rough estimates of the total cost of all appliances (furnace, water heater, stove, refrigerator, dishwasher, washing machine, dryer, wall furnace) and assuming a 10–20 year life span.  I did not include the possibility of early replacement to eliminate natural-gas appliances for environmental reasons. Window replacement estimates may be a bit high, as we have replaced all the windows in the house now, mostly with much higher quality ones than were here originally.  I’ve not included anything for plumbing or general repairs, because we haven’t done any recently enough for me to make estimates. I’m also not including any home improvements, though I do have some ideas for things I’d like to have done (like putting in a new driveway gate and replacing some of the concrete driveway, sidewalk, and curbs).

I split the natural-gas charges between heating and other uses, because we turn off the heat for the summer, but other uses stay roughly the same every month, so the monthly bill information from PG&E (using made estimating the split fairly easy.  The electric billing is not usefully obtained from that website, though, as they do not include the minimum distribution charge.  My electric bill is likely to go up over the next few years, as the very favorable E-6 time-of-use plan is phased out for one that provides much less benefit for net-energy metering.

Category Annual expense
Property tax $4993
Homeowner’s insurance $2433
Water/sewer/garbage $1764
Internet $960
Natural gas heating $600
Appliance replacement $600
Painting (much cheaper if we do it ourselves) $600
Phone (2-phone Google fi, no landline) $530
Tree care $500
Natural gas (hot water, stove, dryer) $400
Fence replacement $300
Window/frame replacement $300
Electricity (minimum grid-connection charge) $130
Total $14110

I was aware of the size of the two biggest contributors, but I had not previously added up all the utilities, nor estimated the amortized maintenance costs. Even with all the amortized expenses, owning the house is much cheaper than renting, but if I sold the house, then new owners would have a much higher cost (the property tax would rise to about $17,000 and there would almost certainly be mortgage payments and title insurance).  With current house prices and mortgage rates, it would be cheaper to rent in Santa Cruz (if you can find a place to rent) than to buy a house.

Next book edition almost done

Filed under: Circuits course — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 13:50
Tags: , , ,

Eleven days ago, I said

Now all I have to do for the next release of the book is do the standard final checks (page breaks, spell checks, and URL checks).  This will probably take me another week.

I have now gotten the page breaks fixed and checked all the URLs (only 8 of the 215 distinct URLs needed fixing).  I last checked them about a year ago, so that is a link-rot rate of only 4%/year (a half-life of about 18 years).  In the process of fixing the page breaks, I noticed and fixed a few minor typos, as well as tightening the text in a couple of places (to improve the page breaks).  I found one instance of “the the” with my tandem-word checks (probably introduced since the last released edition).

I still have to do the spell checks.

I did release one new video last night:, which talks about providing a constant current for electroplating (see the post Controlling current if you don’t want to waste time watching an 11-minute video).

2021 September 22

Secret Walks: Long-Antonelli loop

I’m finally catching up on blogging about our walks from Secret Walks & Staircases in Santa Cruz, by Debbie Bulger and Richard Stover. On Saturday 18 September, my wife and I did the loop walk for the Long Marine Lab and Antonelli Pond.  The loop itself is 2.7 miles, but we added 1.8 miles getting there and 2.3 miles getting home, for a total of 6.8 miles.


These fish sculptures are outside the new Hampton Inn Santa Cruz West on Mission Street.


The first part of the walk uses a public beach access through the large manufactured-home park at the end of Delaware Ave. We had never walked that route before, and we were surprised both by how big the trailer park is and how nice the ponds are along the coastal access.


Here is a view of the pond a little lower down, showing the bridge over the ponds.


After the ponds there is a little pocket beach, which is what the path is providing access to.


The lowest end of the ponds has a bit of algae covering it, despite the aerating fountains. This is the view from bridge, looking out towards the pocket beach.


The view in the other direction from the bridge shows the pond and the cute little island in the middle of it.


The gazebo is just for the residents of the manufactured-home park, so we did not go in, but it seems to have a commanding view of the ocean and of Natural Bridges State Beach.


Zooming in gives a nice view of Natural Bridges State Beach.


Both my wife and I like the Seussian look of tall aloe plants.

The coastal access provides a gate from the manufactured-home park to UCSC’s coastal campus, which houses the Long Marine Lab, the Seymour Marine Discovery Center, the Southwest Fisheries Science Center Fisheries Ecology Division, the Marine Wildlife Veterinary Care and Research Center, and several other lab buildings.


The waves by Long Marine Laboratory were not huge, but occasionally made a big splash. The big stick on the right is not a dead tree, but an old mast from the shipwreck of La Feliz in 1924.


The blue-whale skeleton is a popular attraction for the Seymour Center at the the Long Marine Lab. The Seymour Center is closed until mid-October, but they set up 6 or 7 outdoor docent stations, and they were letting people use the rest rooms.

The paved path across the wetlands on the coastal campus seems to be fairly new, and it is was quite popular with weekend bicyclists, though we did not see many others walking on it. We took the path up to the railroad tracks, which we followed over to Antonelli Pond.


These postpiles in Antonelli Pond are remnants of a refuse wharf. The Land Trust of Santa Cruz County, which now owns and maintains Antonelli Pond, has a nice interpretive map of the pond (available at the southwest end of the pond) that gives a lot of the history. There used to be a lot in that neighborhood that is now all gone (train station, hotel, lumbermill, mushroom factory, speakeasy, … ).


Looking northeast across part of the pond shows some of the more recent development. The building by the pond on the right of this photo is the old TI building, which is now owned by UCSC and used for research (including the UCSC genome institute).

The ponds along this loop are much nicer than Moran Lake from the loop that we walked the previous week, though we did not see much in the way of birds this week. After walking the loops we went back along Delaware Ave to check the sale at Synergy Organic Clothing (which had really good prices, but not the colors my wife was looking for) and to eat lunch at Café Iveta.


I rather like the elegance of these bike parking loops and their shadows on Delaware Ave.


This bike parking along the rail trail behind New Leaf is rather badly misplaced—it is on the far side of the parking lot from any destination, so it never gets used. I suspect that most bicyclists can’t figure out how to use it either.


We only saw two Little Free Libraries on this walk, and neither was on the loop itself. The one is the only Little Free Library that we know of on King Street.


This Little Free Library is next to the rail trail on Almar Ave.

2021 September 20

Secret Walks: Moran Lake

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 20:55
Tags: , , , , , , ,

I’m over a week behind on blogging about our walks from Secret Walks & Staircases in Santa Cruz, by Debbie Bulger and Richard Stover. On Saturday 11 September, my wife and I did a short walk about as far east as the book goes—the Moran Lake loop. Our original plan was to take the bus there and walk home, but we ended up taking buses at both ends, because the walk back did not seem very attractive.  The loop is 2.4 miles, but with our walk to the bus station and back and a walk from 41st and Portola to Capitola Mall, we did about 5.9 miles.


I liked this fish-shaped bike rack visually, though I don’t know how good it is for supporting bikes.


Pleasure Point has a couple of the art frames for framing views. The little dots on the water are not sea birds, but surfers—there were a lot of surfers, but not much in the way of waves all along East Cliff Drive.


Not far from the other frame is this one, which captured a jogger and a bicyclist for me. (I had another view that showed the other frame inside this one, but it was rather boring.)


There are not a lot of amenities along East Cliff (a bathroom, an outdoor shower, and Pleasure Point Cafe, which has a nice octopus mural).


I believe that the old Pleasure Point Motel was converted into condos (or apartments) and this sign reused.


Moran Lake is rather drab—a slight widening of a narrow creek—hardly big enough to be a pond, much less a lake.


Moran Lake is rather full of scum at this time of year. It might be nicer after some rain (though the paths probably get muddy then).


This egret (a great egret, I believe) likes the scummy water for the food in it.


Back view of the great egret.


Just upstream of the great egret was this much smaller egret (probably a snowy egret). I tried to get a picture with both egrets in it, but they never got close enough to each other for a good shot. Even this shot (at maximum zoom) is rather shaky.


Portola Avenue is not fun to walk along (too much traffic), but it does have this nice commemorative plaque for Charley Parkhurst, the first woman to vote in the US.


Portola Avenue also has this nice mural for a tattoo parlor. Portola Avenue is a rather weird mix of business, as that neighborhood seems to be rapidly gentrifying.

After finishing the loop, we ate lunch at Zameen’s at the Point. We’d only ever eaten at Zameen’s food truck before, not at either of their restaurants. The food was good (essentially the same as on the food truck), but a wrap each was a little too much, so we did not stop at Penny Ice Creamery across the street. We did stop in at Two Birds Books, which seems like a nice neighborhood bookstore, though we did not buy anything there.

2021 September 16

Secret Walks: Harvey West Loop

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 15:49
Tags: , , , , ,

On Saturday August 28 and Saturday September 4, my wife and I took another walk from Secret Walks & Staircases in Santa Cruz, by Debbie Bulger and Richard Stover. This time we did the Harvey West Loop.

Why two weekends? Well, it is a bit complicated. My wife does not like walking downhill, particularly not on steep, narrow, possibly slippery trails, and so we decided to the the loop in the reverse direction from the book.  We also started the loop in the middle, at High and Highland, as that was the closest point to our house.  The first part of our loop, into Harvey West Park, was familiar to us and we had no problems, but we could not figure out what trail we were supposed to take through the woods to get to the stairs at the top of the park.  We eventually retraced our route and did the downtown half of the loop.

On Tuesday August 31, I went by myself to do the Harvey West half of the loop by myself in the forward direction.  I had no trouble following the route in that direction, but I did not want to take the High–Coral bike path for a third time, so I tried a different way home, going up the Wagner Grove trail and coming back down Spring Street and past Westlake.  That route was about 4 miles.

On Saturday September 4, my wife and I did the Harvey West part of the loop in the reverse direction, now that I knew which path to take.  The photos below are from all three walks, but are ordered in the way we had intended to do the walk originally (starting at Highland and High, doing the reverse of the Harvey West loop, and then the reverse of the downtown portion).  I’ve added a few photos that were off the main route in appropriate places.

The California buckeye is rather strange, in that it loses its leaves during the summer. The fruit has not yet developed the dark brown that it gets later in the season.

We walked past the cemetery, but did not go in. Some day we should take the tour that the Museum of Art and History has put together.

Although we did not go into the cemetery, I took a picture of the Chinese arch with my camera zoomed way in.

The city no longer allows children to play on the steam engine in the park, though they did about 20 years ago, when our son was about the right age for that.

This is the pump track at Harvey West, which we went past on our first visit. This view is from past where we should have turned.

If you go well past the pump track, to the end of the park, there is this rather interesting multi-trunk tree. If you get here, you’ve definitely gone way past where you should have turned.

Coming back we passed the spiderweb playground, which was not seeing much use.

This is the correct (east) end of the pump track, opposite where the trail goes up.

This is the entrance to the trail—the rail fence is for the pump track.

Going up has several switchbacks, like this one.

Yet another switchback.

After the switchbacks, there is a wooden bridge, which is mentioned in the book, as there is a fork in the trail going in the downhill direction that the book suggests.

Looking down the incorrect fork of the trail from the bridge shows a fallen tree almost blocking the path up from Wagner Grove.

Let’s take a short break here for some photos of the Wagner Grove trail, which is a gentler way up to the bridge.

The service road at the east end of Harvey West Park (just above Wagner Cottage) leads through Wagner Grove.

Wagner Grove itself is marked with a commemorative plaque. At the time I wrote this message, Google maps has incorrect information about Wagner Grove, putting it in Evergreen Cemetery instead of in Harvey West Park. They also have a photo of the cemetery, rather than of Wagner Grove. I’ve sent them feedback, but it might take them a while to fix the map.

Here is a view from the downhill side of the fallen tree blocking the trail. It does not completely block the trail, but the part underneath has a steep slide slope and looks like slippery dirt.

This graffiti summarized my feelings about going under the fallen tree.

Luckily, I had noticed a trail just a little ways back that connected the Wagner Grove trail to the upper trail that the book had us use.

The connecting trail had stairs at the top, as well as at the bottom, so was much easier for me than squeezing under the fallen tree.

Getting back to the main route:

There are some fairly long stairs for the steep part of the hill.

After the stairs and a switchback, there is a final bridge and stairs out to Meadow Court.

The entrance to the park at the end of Meadow Court is easy to find in the forward direction.

We always stop at the Little Free Libraries that we pass on our walks. This one is on Sheldon.

This is the top of the Logan steps, which provides a pedestrian shortcut to cut off the big switchback on Highland.

This is what the Logan steps look like from the bottom—a long steep sidewalk with the steps at the top end.

Let’s return now to the downtown portion of the loop:

The plaque commemorating London Nelson’s gift to the Santa Cruz schools should really be replaced with one that spells his name correctly.

The frescoes in the Post Office are quite nice.

I only took photos of two of the frescoes, because the other one is behind a locked gate on Saturdays, when part of the lobby of the post office is closed.

Finally, I’ll toss in a couple more Little Free Libraries:

This one is on High Street, and I did not initially recognize it as a library.

This one is on Escalona.

Next Page »

%d bloggers like this: