September 23, 2010 at 7:05 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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At long last I have gotten back my laptop in a fully restored state. The faint aroma of fresh coffee still wafts from its vents, but with the new keyboard, new motherboard, and new screen (and -$600) it is finally as good as new.

A few weeks ago our friend Hilton (who recommended Blake to Amazon) had a paintball birthday party. The place was out in the middle of nowhere, so Team Software Engineers was mostly up against Team Redneck Stereotypes for the first part of the day. I was feeling a little under the weather, so although I love paintball I decided to sit and watch. I came armed with a book and Blake’s iPhone and I mostly hung out with them between matches. I also got some fantastic photos, but because there are so many I really pruned down the set in deciding which ones to post here. I usually like all my photos — that’s why I took them! — so it often takes me a few passes to cull down the list to only the ones that I think will be interesting to people who aren’t me. You can be the judge of how successful I was. =)

(For those of you who don’t know, paintball is played with a gun that shoots little dime-sized paint balls which have a thick outer skin like a bath bead. The guns are powered with CO2. When they hit you, they hurt a fair amount and leave a big paint splotch on your clothes (and hopefully not your skin, because getting hit there hurts a lot). People play all sorts of games — capture the flag, last man standing, etc. It’s usually played in an arena that has lots of obstacles and things to hide behind and run between for shelter from the opposing team’s gunfire. It involves lots of running and crouching and dodging and is a pretty exhausting but fun activity.)

On the drive home, Blake was talking about how it was frustrating to play with the extraordinarily inaccurate paintball guns that you can rent there. I suggested he buy a gun for himself and then he and Hilton (who love love loves paintball) could go and play every so often. He wasn’t sure Hilton would be up for it, but the next day we got an email from Hilton suggesting that very same thing! Apparently he and Jocelyn had had a similar conversation. Once Blake’s ankle has fully healed, I think he’s going to look into that.

All in all, it was a pretty fun day. Tiring, but fun.

The game area was behind this thick plastic netting to protect spectators. I spent the first half of the day with my nose pressed against it, until a player pointed out the fine splattered paint layer on all the plants within three feet of the netting. After that I stood back a ways!

Our guys (and Jocelyn). The fellow facing the camera in the background was the referee who was setting the ground rules.

The enemy.

Hilton and Blake mid-game

The opposing team running to take some ground. (Shot through the netting mentioned above.)

Team Amazon (and Google) emerges victorious

There were some apples nearby that were just beautiful. I'm a sucker for pretty apples.

A young paintballer

Another young paintballer

Blake, Hilton, and Hilton's friend Justin

At the end of the day, Blake was only a little worse for wear.

Blake's battle damage for the day. Fear not, ladies, I got him those clothes at a thrift store especially for this occasion. (And even so, they came out perfectly stain-free when I washed them at home later.) I don't really know why there's a cow falling on the shirt, but I thought it was cute.

A cruise around Elliot Bay

September 19, 2010 at 9:35 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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The Argosy Cruises neon signYesterday Blake and I went on an Argosy cruise around Elliot Bay. (Argosy is the company.) It was around $17 per person after tax, which seemed pretty steep for an hour-long guided tour, but I’m glad we went. (Though at that price I won’t be accompanying out-of-town guests on it when they visit.) The cruise went counter-clockwise around the harbor, which had the interesting and unfortunate consequence of rendering the port (left) view pretty useless. While the people on the right ogled the Space Needle and boats and notable points of interest on the skyline, the people on the left could look off at the Olympic mountain range and the featureless expanse of water. For about half an hour. Or, if they looked to their right, they could see the big wall in the middle of the ship instead of Seattle.

A pretty red building down by the docks

We were among the unfortunate few who were seated on the port side, but just after we sat down I foresaw the consequences and asked one of the crewmembers if we would indeed be simply circling the bay counter-clockwise. He said, “Well, most of the good views are on the right, but there are some good ones on the left as well.” So we decided to stay where we were and give it a try. Then, three minutes later after he named the fifth or sixth item that we absolutely couldn’t see at all, we pulled our chairs towards the rear of the boat so we could see both sides. Shortly thereafter several other port-facing folks followed suit.

About the coolest thing we saw was a few sea lions playing on a buoy out in the middle of the harbor. At the end of the cruise we also went by the industrial section of the harbor, which would have been way more interesting if we hadn’t seen similar things on our honeymoon (and the other cruises I’ve taken).

A sea lion basking in the cloudiness

Afterwards we had been planning to walk a few blocks to Pike Place Market and eat at some interesting ethnic place for dinner, but the light sprinkling rain had picked up a little and it discouraged us. I had my camera and no bag for it, and Blake was wearing only a T-shirt with no jacket. (My purse always contains a tiny umbrella, but I had left it at home so as to have my hands free for photos.) Rookie mistakes for new Seattleites, I’m sure. (Yes, “Seattleite” is the demonym specified by Wikipedia.) So we took the bus back and then walked to the nearby McDonald’s for burgers and McFlurries. Not as ethnic, but still pretty good.

The Seattle skyline

When this ship goes over waves, why don't all the containers fall off? Surely they don't have *that* much structural integrity, do they?

There were two or three other sea lions swimming around the buoy (not shown)

House photo tour!

September 15, 2010 at 2:34 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Aw, it's beautiful. :D

Yesterday afternoon I went out to the house for the home inspection. It took just under two hours, and during that time I made sure to get lots of photos. The inspection went well — a few issues worth noting, but nothing too bad. Though once he started pointing out imperfections — dings, scrapes, small dents, etc. — I noticed that there were actually quite a lot of them. About the worst of it is that the furnace hasn’t been serviced during its four-year lifespan, so we’ll have to pay a couple hundred dollars for that. And there are a lot of minor problems: leaky faucet in the kitchen if you move it around, broken spring in one of the windows, a hole in the carpet in a closet in the guest room, bathtub needs re-caulking, etc. All of it could be fixed by a few trips to Home Depot and maybe a couple hundred bucks, so it definitely wasn’t enough to affect the sale. One thing was creepy, though: the front door, master bedroom door, and master bath door all had doorframe damage because they had been kicked in! (According to the inspector, that’s very easy to diagnose: vertical cracks emanating from the latch area of the doorframe.) It makes me wonder what was going on in this home before they got foreclosed upon. Maybe I’ll ask the neighbors. (The damage is minor and we almost certainly won’t get it fixed.)

The front door. The yard's a bit overgrown, but not for long. There are flowers along the front walk! (I think they're pansies, but I know Mom can tell me for sure.)

Lots of people have asked me if the sellers will be paying to fix these items before the sale, and the answer is no. I’m not sure if it’s because the house is owned by a bank or what, but they made it very clear up front that the house was being sold as-is and with no repairs whatsoever. (That was one of the few places in their contract that actually used caps — “NO REPAIRS OF ANY KIND”!) They invited us to inspect it to our heart’s content and then make a go/no-go decision based on that.

Lots of people have also asked me when we’ll be able to occupy the house. Apparently there are a kajillion steps that must be accomplished before that can happen, and mostly the lender will be doing that stuff (I believe) and we’ll be waiting to hear how it went from him or her. The closing date on the contract says October 27, but based on various factors I’m told we may actually get in closer to the middle of the month. Which would be great. =) The neighborhood has kids in it, so maybe we’ll get a bunch of trick-or-treaters!

(Side story: almost every Halloween since I finished college I’ve carved a pumpkin and bought candy and waited to hear a knock from adorable neighborhood kids. Do you know how many trick-or-treaters I’ve gotten in that time? Total? Two! After several years I learned to buy candy that I dislike so that when no trick-or-treaters came I wouldn’t have to reap the terrible delicious consequences all by myself. Instead I brought the candy to work and let weak-willed coworkers do the reaping.)

Anyway, on with the photos!

Looking down the street. (That's our realtor's BMW parked on the street.) In this area it's pretty uncommon to see streets this wide -- most neighborhoods are really cramped with streets as tiny as they can get away with.

The stove in the kitchen. Someday I'd like to have a gas stove, but for now this pretty glass-top is a nice substitute. Apparently it would cost about $1000 to run gas to the stove (not to mention the cost of a new oven), so I don't expect us to get one anytime soon.

The island in the kitchen. Yup, that's granite tile on the countertops. (Close-up below.)

The kitchen sink

The granite tile countertops

Looking at the breakfast nook from the living room. Yo can see the edge of the kitchen island peeking out from behind the wall on the left.

The living room. Virtually every house here has that recessed pocket above the fireplace for a TV. I don't really understand it -- I wouldn't want a TV that high -- but it's apparently the thing to do here. (Even newly-built homes have it.) There's also coax in the right corner. The lightswitch panel to the left of the fireplace turns on the fire and the blower fan.

The other end of the living room. Beyond the stairs in the backround is the light from the front door (which was open when this photo was taken). Down the hall to the left is the french-door room (see below) and the entrance to the garage.

We've been calling this the French-door room, but we're thinking of making it a library. (Our office will be upstairs.) Feel free to make other suggestions for this room! It's right next to the living room.

Inside the French-door room. It's pretty, isn't it?

The half bath is downstairs right near the front door. Neither of us really likes these pedestal sinks very much, but we only have one and it's not near any of the bedrooms, so it's not really a big deal.

Looking down over the stairs. The light down there is from the open front door (to the left), and the dark doorway is the half bath.

At the top of the stairs, the master bedroom is ahead on the left with the bonus room on the right. This bonus room is nice and big and will be our office.

Inside the office ("bonus room"). I love the double doors! We'll have room for the big desks we want and all my computers.

Inside the master bedroom. The left doorway leads to the hallway. Through the right door you can see straight through the master bath and into the walk-in closet (which has its own window).

The master bath. Opposite the sinks there's a bathtub (see below) and on the right edge of this photo you can see the shower.

The bathtub. I really can't imagine a scenario in which we'll have the blinds on that window open! The toilet is just on the other side of the wall with the bathtub faucet, and it's open to the rest of the bathroom. We might try to put a curtain or door there in the future.

Standing in the doorway to the master bedroom looking out into the hallway. The doorframe just peeking in from the left is the office.

The laundry room.

The guest bathroom.

Bedroom 1

Bedroom 2

The backyard. Directly behind the house there's a drainage pond that is beautifully overgrown with trees and other plants, and it really makes for a nice backdrop.

Giant slug! He was crawling on this dandelion in the backyard. This photo doesn't do him justice, though -- that was seriously a huge dandelion. This guy was like 2.5 inces long. The realtor and inspector laughed at me and said you just get those in Washington sometimes. Yipes.

They accepted our offer!

September 13, 2010 at 11:18 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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They accepted our offer on the house! I guess we’ll have a lot of stuff to do now, but I’m not sure exactly what all that will be. Yay! I guess we’re moving to Everett! (Better and more photos coming later.)



No house news yet, but here are some photos of Nano

September 12, 2010 at 10:45 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Just a quick update. The seller’s realtor told us that she’d have to get approval to evaluate our latest counter-offer, and apparently that didn’t happen Friday. We expect to hear from them tomorrow (Monday). Hopefully nobody fell in love with the house and made a million-dollar offer over the weekend.

Also, we did some neat stuff in the last week or so and I have some neat photos, so hopefully I’ll get my laptop back from the expensive laptop-repair place later this week. Then I can write posts of normal length with neat photos instead of these dinky ones I’m writing from my phone.

At this moment Nano is sitting between my legs on the couch waving her little paws around in a dreamy stupor while she sleeps. It’s pretty cute. Also, here are a couple cute Nano photos from my phone. Enjoy!

House negotiations: final offer

September 9, 2010 at 2:24 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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Yesterday we went back and forth with the bank (who is selling the house) with some offers and counteroffers. There were four volleys yesterday, and this afternoon we got their response. It’s getting exciting, because the difference between our offer and their counter is less than 5K. So our realtor suggested we counter and say, “This is our final offer.” Eep! I know it’s a small difference in amounts now and if they decided to be jerks then we’d walk away, but it still makes me nervous to say that it’s final. But I’m sure everything will be fine. And if not, then walking away is okay too. It just makes me nervous!

It's go time.

It's go time.

More information on the house offer

September 7, 2010 at 10:34 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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I’ve had several people ask me about this, so I thought I’d just go ahead and make another post:

Yes, we submitted the offer today. The house is bank owned, and our realtor said that it would be surprising if we got a reply before Thursday. “Do you think there’s a chance they’ll accept our first offer?” I asked him, and he said almost certainly not. Even if we were to offer what they’re asking (instead of something several thousand dollars less), apparently they virtually always come back with a bunch of addenda which all cost extra. Ah, well. If we’re going to do a couple back-and-forth negotiations, I guess we could be looking at at least a week and maybe almost two before we know something solid.

In the meantime, although we have a pre-approval letter, we’re going to compare our options and talk to some different lenders to make sure we’re getting the best interest rate on the home loan.

We’re also really hoping that our offer scares off the other potential buyers. If the house were owned by some random guy and the other potential buyers (PBs) were also interested in making an offer, we would likely get into a bidding war with the PBs. Since the house is bank owned, however, apparently they handle it differently. They don’t want to waste time with a bidding war and instead will tell both PBs (us and them) to declare their “best and final” offer and then they’ll take the highest one. No bidding, no back and forth — just one big number. And since it’s a house we like a lot, that number would require lots of agonizing followed by lots of paying or lots of regret. (Or, if we’re smart, lots of satisfaction in knowing that we bid exactly what the house was worth to us.) I’d just rather have it for less than what it’s worth to us. =) Otherwise I guess it’s more house shopping for me. But so far there’s no sign of other buyers, so hopefully we won’t even have to worry about that.

I’m not really sure why a bank owns the house. I don’t think it was a foreclosure because that’s usually specified in the MLS listing. Also, the house is in great shape and has new carpet, which I guess is uncommon in foreclosures. I’ll ask our realtor if he knows when I get a chance.

That’s all the house news for now. I dropped my laptop off at a licensed Lenovo repair place this afternoon, and they expect to give me a diagnosis and estimate on the de-coffee-ing tomorrow. Hopefully it costs less than a new laptop!

Update: Phones and houses and ill health and coffee

September 6, 2010 at 10:07 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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I’m typing this post on my new iPhone. My old G1 Android phone had long been having problems, but I was really having trouble deciding what to get to replace it. The new Android phones were unsatisfactory to me for a number of reasons not worth enumerating here, and most of my old complaints about the iPhone still applied. However, with the addition of multitasking in iOS4, the bulk of my iPhone complaints now have to do with “artificial” limitations imposed by Apple for marketing or other reasons. So when Blake suggested getting an iPhone and jailbreaking it, the idea was much more palatable. (Jailbreaking basically means using free software to bypass Apple’s restrictions on the phone. Apple hates it when people do this and is trying to prevent it like crazy.) So as soon as jailbreaking software is released for the newest version of the operating system, that’s what I’m doing. Hopefully this will only take a few weeks.

The other reason I’m typing this on my phone is because I dumped a whole travel cup full of coffee right on top of my laptop. I couldn’t have covered it more thoroughly if I’d tried. After hours of cleaning out the insides with Q-tips and a toothbrush, it was able to boot back up into Windows. There are a variety of problems, though — sticky keys (despite cleaning), coffee damage inside the screen, and some problems with internal components that cause it to run extremely slowly and sometimes crash the OS spontaneously. We suspect some of the memory was damaged, but I’ll call Lenovo tomorrow and hopefully figure out what needs to be replaced and for how much. It’s sad and I miss my laptop. =(

For some more bad news, two weeks ago Blake tripped over a weirdly uneven curb, rolled his ankle, and has been having some problems with it since then. It’s nothing too serious — he saw a doctor on Friday who said it was a bad sprain but should fully recover with rest. If it bothers him he elevates it with ice, but most of the time it’s just annoying for him and otherwise not too bad.

So here’s some happy news: we picked a house! We’re in the midst of the paperwork and headaches involved with making the actual offer, but it seems likely that we’ll end up getting the house. It’s surprising that it worked out this way — on Thursday the realtor told us that someone else was making an offer on it and did we want to make a competing offer? We were waiting to hear back from Amazon on getting an extension for our stuff in storage so that we’d be able to keep it there while we built a house, so we sadly told him that no, we wouldn’t make an offer. Only I had seen the house at his point, but we’d had plans for Blake to see it on Sunday. Plans that wouldn’t happen now since someone else would be buying it. So a day passed and our realtor mentioned that the offer hadn’t come in but was expected at any time. We again chose not to take action and another day went by. Then on Saturday he said again that the offer hadn’t come in and did we still want Blake to see it on Sunday?

So we said sure. We were both concerned about the distance from Seattle — the house is in Everett almost 30 minutes away — but Blake knew I thought it looked promising and we decided it was worthwhile for him to see it anyway. And… he thought it was great! In fact, he liked it as much as our first-choice house which would have to be built — but this one was already done and we could move into it in a month or so (instead of the six months it would take to have our first choice built). So… we still had a hard decision. We loved the house and the neighborhood and the area. But we were concerned about the distance (even though Blake could take the train to and from work and count travel time as work time). On the other hand, there haven’t been too many houses we like this much, and with the end of the summer there are fewer and fewer new houses appearing on the market.

So we agonized about it yesterday. There are other people interested in the house, so we couldn’t wait and see if we like other houses better. (I’ve looked at probably 70 houses and haven’t found much.) Finally we decided that it was unlikely that we’d find something else that we liked as much until many months had gone by — maybe even til next May when school is out and people start selling houses again. And if we rented for a year in anticipation of that, we’d almost certainly lose the great interest rates available now.

So we decided to make an offer. Once things are more certain I’ll post a gazillion photos of the house. Hopefully we won’t get into a bidding war with anybody. Cross your fingers!

Car accident (not me or my car!)

September 1, 2010 at 10:59 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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Yesterday afternoon I was driving home from Kent on the way to pick up Blake from work. The roads were wet since it had been raining lightly all day, but it was nothing treacherous or unusual. Traffic was dense but moving at the speed limit. All of a sudden, a semi truck about 50 feet in front of me started changing lanes and I thought, “Gee, he’s moving over really quickly!” An instant later it became apparent that he was out of control! The truck slipped sideways (perpendicular to the direction of traffic) and slammed into a Camry, pushing it over a couple lanes and eventually into a Jetta which was then smushed into the concrete median separating the north and southbound lanes of traffic. As the truck slid, it jack-knifed and spun, and when it stopped it was jutting across almost all of the northbound lanes.

I squeezed by in the single remaining northbound lane and could see that the two hit cars were damaged, so I pulled over onto the shoulder to see if anybody needed help. When the two cars collected themselves, they were both able to drive over to the shoulder as well along with a fourth car who had been behind me. When I got out of my car, the truck looked like this:

Thr truck right after the accident

How the truck looked immediately after the accident (though I took this photo several minutes later). My car in the foreground.

I walked up to the two cars, and both of the drivers said they were unhurt. The other car who stopped but wasn’t hit was a 60-ish year old woman whose sister was driving the Camry (which sustained the most damage) and they were driving up from Oregon in two cars. They were pretty shaken up but otherwise calm. The driver of the Jetta was in her early twenties and didn’t seem particularly flustered. As it started sprinkling again, we stood in a little huddle recounting what had happened and being incredulous and happy that nobody was hurt. We had all stopped a hundred or so feet in front of the truck, and since it seemed unlikely that its driver was harmed, none of us had gone over to see it.

The truck up close

The truck up close

A minute or so later, while we were in our (now pretty calm) circle, the truck driver came over in a frenzy of yelling and defensiveness and blame-placing. He had a thick African accent (I think it was African — he sounded like someone I knew from Nigeria). “Did you see the guy? That guy just came over into my lane and I had to swerve! He just came right over! There was nothing I could do! Did you see him? It wasn’t my fault! I was driving and he just came over! Did you see him?” We all said we hadn’t seen the guy, and we were more than a little daunted by his yelling and anger and the wild arm-waving when he spoke. After a short time he went back to his truck and we didn’t really see him again. After he was gone we all agreed that he was probably telling the truth — none of us had been in a position to see somebody coming into his lane from the right.

The cars on the shoulder

After a few minutes, the other three cars backed up so we were all pretty near the truck in a neat line. The Camry's side mirrors were gone, so the backing up actually took her a few minutes.

About that time I said, “We should probably call the police.” The other three women had all thought that someone else had called them, and eventually it came out that immediately following the accident a random driver had pulled over near one of them and said, “the police are on their way” before zooming off. So we waited, and a little bit later we heard sirens and then a few cop cars and an ambulance rolled up.

Emergency vehicles

At this point you may be wondering why I was still around since I hadn’t been hit and nobody was hurt. Well, the only other non-hit car was the sister of the Camry driver, and she would clearly not be the most objective witness. Since I had actually seen the action up close, I hung around in case anybody wanted to hear my account of the events.

The cops talked to the truck driver first while the EMTs made sure everybody was okay. Here the Jetta driver announced that “[her] back kind of hurts” despite telling us that she was fine a few minutes earlier, which led me to wonder if she had just realized the sort of opportunity that had presented itself. The EMTs sat her down on the driver’s seat of her Jetta and then they and a bunch of cops stood around her in a big circle and, as far as I could tell, talked. This went on for 10-15 minutes and I started wondering if that might have had something to do with her notable youth and attractiveness. (Gosh, I’m a cynic!)

Empty highway

The view northbound. You can see the EMTs' stuff sitting on the ground next to the Jetta on the right.

(The Jetta driver seemed perfectly nice, and I didn’t really see much of what happened to her car in the accident. So perhaps she really was injured. I have no idea.) It was beginning to rain harder and I was going to be late to pick up Blake (and I had to go to the bathroom!), so I approached a cop and said I was a witness. He got my name and contact info and sent me happily on my way. I also gave my info to the Jetta and Camry drivers, so maybe I’ll be able to help if there are any facts in dispute. The truck driver was kind of scary and so I didn’t go tell him my info, but I’m sure the cops can contact me if necessary.

Conveniently, having four lanes blocked during rush hour for twenty minutes resulted in a full clearing-out of the interstate heading into Seattle (north of the accident). So I got on the highway and zoomed into town at full speed. Amazingly, I was actually only five minutes late to pick up Blake despite waiting at the side of the road for almost a half hour. Interstates are so fast when there are no other cars on them!

So all in all everything turned out mostly fine. It was pretty scary seeing that semi just slide around like that, though — I’ve been thanking my lucky stars since then that I wasn’t going a teeny bit faster, or I might have been the one next to that truck. I probably wouldn’t have been hurt either, but dealing with it certainly would have been a giant headache. Phew!

PS – Here’s another puppy video! Pico butts Nano (Youtube)

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