View from the Suburbs: Making Work Pay Tax Credit

Annie and the Garden Hose

You may sit on a different side on the topic of the Stimulus Package, but, personally, I was quite pleased with the unexpected amount in my tax refund from the Make Work Pay tax credit.

My little Nikon Coolpix S230 took a little spill onto the hard tile kitchen floor a few months ago, and as a result, its touch-screen operation no long works.  I can still take photos and download them, but that’s about it.  Partly because of this blog, I enjoy taking photos and got the Nikon after a similar-sized Canon’s shutter mechanism developed problems.  These were my first two digital cameras.  Being a fan of the old film-type SLR cameras, I had started reading about the Canon T1i,  because I wanted a camera that was going to get good quality definition, but the chunk of cash for one was really more than I wanted to fork out at the moment, and I really have liked the convenience of being able drop the small camera in the pocket of a pair of baggy shorts and head out with Annie for a walk.

To make a long story short (can I really do that?), yesterday morning after my intown haircut, with that tax credit money burning a hole in my pocket, I stopped off at the nearby Best Buy to look at cameras and came home with the Nike Coolpix P100, which I think is going to be a nice compromise between the small S230 and the larger Canon.

I read the quick instructions and charged up the battery.  I need to read the manual to learn how to use all the bells and whistles, but I think from what I see in these shots I’m going to like this camera.

The Garden (5-22-10)

Angel Wing Begonia in Bloom

Blossoms of Yellow Wax Bean

Green Tomato in Hiding

Cucumber Blooms

Sunflower Starting To Open

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Houston METRORail Holds Ground-Breaking Ceremonies for Two New Lines

Ground-breaking ceremonies were held to inaugarate the beginning of construction of two new light-rail lines in Houston.  Work will be starting on the Southeast Corridor Line and the Northline Corridor Line.

metrorail houstonBoth of these will connect more commuters to downtown and the present line, which goes from the University of Houston Downtown on the north to beyond Reliant Stadium on the south.

According to Click2Houston, “(F)ive light rail projects were selected nationwide to receive federal grant money. The two new lines METRORail lines are two of those projects. The north corridor and the southeast corridor will receive $150 million combined.”

Read more here about these and three other new Houston METRORail lines, which will soon be part of the Houston Metro System.

The “Un-Called” For Telemarketer (Part II)–Bank of America Likes To Make My Phone Ring

b-of-a-logoI have a Bank of America credit card, which has a zero balance on it (hurray, me!), but Bank of America would like me to do more with it, so every couple of weeks recently, they have called with some kind of offer or another.  I usually don’t wait to hear what the offer is, though, before hanging up.

I guess they are trying to make back some of the money the government gave them (well, really, we the taxpayers gave them) in stimulus money because they seem really stimulated to call me.

The most frequent offer they come on with is for identity theft coverage.  They, however, are part of the problem when is comes to the possibility of someone stealing my identity because along with the phone calls are all the offers and other correspondence I get from them in the mail.  The most hazardous mail from them comes in the form of personal checks they send to me about every month, which would be payable from my credit card account.  They are not alone among the credit card companies doing this, but at least for me, they do it most frequently.

When I growl at them over the phone about calling so often, the telemarketer tells me they will take me off of their call list, but, of course, that hasn’t happened yet.

I guess some of you might be saying, “Why don’t you just get caller ID?”  I suppose if I did that I’d just growl at AT&T every month when the bill came.

Houston Poised To Start Work on Five New Metrorail Lines; Officials Say These Transportation Projects Will Bring 60,000 New Jobs to the Bayou City; Completion Set for Sometime in 2012

houstonmetro1Today contracts were let for four new lines by the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County. In addition to these lines is the fifth new line, the University Corridor Line, which is part of another contract, but is to be built during approximately the same time frame.

The almost 1.5 billion dollar deal (plus a similar price for the Corridor Line) will add to the current single line, which has as its northern terminus the University of Houston Downtown, passes through downtown Houston on Main Street, then on to the Museum District and Medical Center, and finally alongside Reliant Stadium (home of the NFL Houston Texans) to its southmost stop just outside of Loop 610.

The original line was finished in 2004 despite the efforts of many community activists and others who fought against commuter rail, saying that nobody would use it. Anyone who rides the Metro today will see the cars filled with riders of all types, especially students and downtown and medical center employees. The addition of the rail line was one of the factors which has led to a “renaissance” of the entire downtown area, which just like those of many other big series had slipped into a period of decay as freeways and shopping malls pulled many city dwellers and newcomers to the Houston area to the suburbs.

houstonmetromap2

The five new lines include:

  • The East End Line (3 miles), which will cross the current line very near its present northern stop, but mostly will head east toward the Harrisburg area, sometimes known as Magnolia or Navigation. This is an old, primarily Hispanic area near the Houston Ship Channel. Probably the most famous establishment in this part of Houston is the original Mama Ninfa’s Restaurant on Navigation Street.
  • The Southeast Line (6.7 miles), which also starts at the north end of the current line, then somewhat zigzags its way near University of Houston Main Campus and continues on.
  • The North Line (6.4 miles), which actually will be an extension of the current line. It will, of course go north from downtown Houston and end up at the Northline Mall area. (Northline Mall was torn down a couple of years ago and has been rebuilt into more of a plaza-like series of strip centers with stores easily accessible to drive-up customers.)
  • The University Corridor Line (10 miles), which starts in Eastwood, an area near the University of Houston Main Campus and heads west crossing the Main Street Line and goes out to the near southwest side of town. This line has been the most controversial, fought against by homeowners and neighborhoods, who don’t want the rail to pass through their areas.
  • The Uptown (4.7 miles), which will connect perpendicularly with the Corridor Line, and pass through the Galleria and Uptown Park areas.

This is an ambitious project, but one worthy of the 4th largest city in the United States. Although Houstonians are known to be in love with their cars, and high-priced European sedans, Hummers, and double-cab pickups, and other gas guzzlers are the norm rather than the exception in this city, the recent high-dollar price of gas and now the more recent general economy slump have moved many drivers to rethink their daily means of getting to work. However, these new rail lines do not really reach that far out from the center of the city, so many commuters will still need to use the current freeway system to get to their jobs, keep taking the non-too-frequent Metro buses, or perhaps drive to the end terminals of the new lines.

Officials say they hope these lines will be completed sometime in 2012; that seems quite a large order for such a huge project. In addition, they say that these projects will add 60,000 jobs to the community and that some of the cost will be paid for by the stimulus package, which President Obama and the Congress have approved.

With all the construction taking place all over the city, but especially in areas surrounding downtown, this project will probably bring major traffic nightmares to the city before it is actually completed.