Sunday, July 26, 2009

Free Time

This weekend was originally looking like it was going to be extremely busy. It turned out that many of the chores and things we had scheduled took a lot less time then expected and so we ended up having some actual free time. That was the first time in quite a while that we were at home with nothing pressing to do.

On top of that we still managed to get all kinds of chores done, finalize the choices for our house, spend time with friends, take both sets of parents on a tour of the model home similar to our future house, do several hours of work, and watch Some Like it Hot. All in all it felt good to get so much done and still have time to relax at home.

Of course as of tomorrow it all starts again, as I will be traveling, Linzy has a number of appointments lined up, and will be traveling as well. At least no one will be bored.


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Thursday, July 23, 2009

Options, Options

On Saturday we'll be headed back to the design center to make the final choices for the new house. Over the past week as I've thought more about how the price just continues to escalate, I've become a bit frustrated with the outrageous prices some things cost, where then other options are ridiculously cheap.

For example, changing all of the door knobs in the house to levers costs $250. We looked at changing the door knobs in the current house a while back and those same levers were going to cost an insane amount of money to change even the smaller number of doors our house has now.

But then there was something like putting a different faucet in the kitchen, where it was $375 for a very similar faucet to the one that I put in this house. That one cost $200, and it's not like it has any additional labor to install, plus they're saving the cost of the normal faucet.

I commented to Linzy the other day that the only option I truly want is for them to pause construction for like a week after framing in the house and let me do whatever I want. Run wires all over, changing out some of the plumbing, put in a vent for the gas cooktop, etc. All of which costs stupid sums of money to have the builder do, but in reality takes a few hours to do prior to when the house is finished.

I fully understand why they would never do that, but it is nice to dream.

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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

All Good Things

I was reading today an article at Gamasutra talking about how revenues from music/rhythm games are down 50% year over year. This seems pretty much expected, as Activision continues to pump out the overpriced retail releases every few months and Rock Band has gone more-or-less downloadable content only for the past year in preparation for The Beatles: Rock Band.

That makes the relative comparison of retail revenue between the two titles somewhat skewed, but I think the overall trend of declining revenues is accurate. I know that I have seen a ton of the more expensive bundles selling for half-price as retailers try to get rid of them. And even as a huge fan of Rock Band and the early Guitar Hero games, I can't muster up much interest in either The Beatles nor Guitar Hero 5. I like the Beatles OK, but that's not what I would be interested in playing. And the Guitar Hero model of no DLC and constant overpriced separate games turns me off.

Perhaps Rock Band 2 and its massive library of downloadable songs will reign as the pinnacle of music game success. Or perhaps one of the two companies will do something innovative and spark a new round of competition.


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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Swinging

My vehicle is coming up on nine years old this fall. It's been a very good car, reliable and relatively inexpensive to maintain. The main issue with it has been it's propensity to eat through tires every 40,000 miles. The current tires have been cupped for quite a while, and I promised Linzy after the last oil change that prior to the next one I would have gotten new tires.

Of course, I drive roughly two miles a day, so the time between oil changes can be substantial. Plus at that point I had already practically made it through winter and it seemed silly to get brand new tires just as the roads were clearing up.

Thus four months later I am still rolling around on bald tires, getting close to needing an oil change. Last week I started hearing this weird banging noise occasionally when I would go around a corner or over a bump. I was afraid it was a strut going out, and after one ride where the noise happened frequently I looked under the car and noticed that the muffler was completely loose and swinging back and forth.

The trouble is that because the tires are totally bald I can't bring it in anywhere immediately to have the muffler fixed. The last oil change the guys were threatening not to let the car leave, so I'm sure this time they would pitch a fit about the tires. And because I'm getting the tires from Sam's Club, it takes a week or so for the tires to come in stock.

So in the mean time I am driving around on bald tires and in fear that at some point the whole muffler will fall off.


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Monday, July 20, 2009

Books: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

Several months ago at the garage sale, Brenden was selling some books and after taking a look at them I ended up taking them instead. They weren't really the normal kind of books that I read, but they seemed interesting.

Among the selections was 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, which I have never read. I really didn't even know that much about the story as my only exposure was the old ride at the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World. Which, other the squid attacks, didn't really cover anything memorable.

The book ended up to be interesting, though not as good as I was expecting. Despite thinking that I already knew the storyline, I didn't really know anything about how things happened or even what happened.

I can completely understand why the book is a classic. While it wasn't necessarily a brilliantly written book, back in the late 1800s the thought of having a submarine and walking on the bottom of the ocean would have been pretty mind boggling. And even though that has become commonplace it was still interesting to read about and imagine how crazy it probably sounded over one hundred years ago.

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Sunday, July 19, 2009

Decisions

On Saturday Linzy and I went to our builder's design center for the first planning visit on the new house. Having never built before it was an entirely new experience. Luckily we had worked with the development sales guy quite a bit on options so we had at least some idea of what we were getting into.

Until we actually got there of course, and realized the full scope of all of the decisions that needed to be made.

It wasn't just the expected things like what kind of flooring do you want, and what kind of granite, and what edge on the granite, but a million small things as well. Such as what kind of toilets do you want, round, elongated, or comfort height. Did you even know a 'comfort height' toilet existed?

How about sinks, do you want the standard 8.25" depth, the mixed 7.5" and 9.5" or the double 9.5" inch kitchen sink. Oh, you want the 9.5" inch? That's an extra $700. Are you still sure? How about roll-out shelves? $95 a piece, how many do you want and where? What about the grout color on your ceramic tile?

I don't think that I have ever made that many decisions in a three hour period. On one hand it is nice because we truly will be getting exactly what we want, or think we want. On the other hand it is sort of scary because you make 300 decisions and then 6 months later a house pops out with all those items installed. Better hope that carpet color you picked from the 3x3 sample turns out good when you have a whole house full of it. Or the paint color selected from a 1x2 inch swath, that the entire house will be painted. No pressure.

Then because we are gluttons for punishment immediately following the design center we went to Southern Lights and picked out all 39 of the light fixtures for the house. That would have been horrendous but the sales consultant (Michelle) was awesome and helped keep us from being overwhelmed and kept us on budget.

The end result is that other then a few custom options they are working out prices for, nearly everything is decided. So they should be able to start construction as soon as the permits come through.


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Thursday, July 16, 2009

Storage

As we inch closer to finalizing the sale on our house, the current popular topic of discussion at home is what exactly we are going to do all of the stuff we have. About half of our things are currently packed in my parent's basement but that still leaves a substantial amount of things to box up and nearly all of our furniture still to deal with.

Since the new house likely won't be done until January, we have quite a while to store things. Since we'll already be imposing on my parents I am not necessarily keen on completely filling their basement (it's about a third full now), nor am I interested in trying to move any significant portion of the furniture over there.

That leaves some sort of storage as being required. We're debating whether that means PODs (or something similar), or a regular storage unit. PODs would be convenient in theory, since they could show up at the house, go away for five months and then show up at the new house. On the other hand they are expensive and so we'd probably do the moving to/from the POD by ourselves so I'd have to hit up friends to help move things.

A consideration with that is the fact that when we moved into this house I promised all my friends (who at that time were moving each other yearly) that I would not ask them to help me move out. Also there is the question of how to best protect the stuff in the POD, as moving blankets turn out to be crazy expensive, and the slightly concerning reputation of PODs as not being particularly careful when moving PODs around and things getting damaged even when stuff is strapped down.

A storage unit would be cheaper, or would allow us to hire movers for at least one direction of the move to/from the storage unit. But there is a definite question about exactly how much space we would need for storage and just how expensive that would get, especially if there were movers involved transporting the stuff in both directions. I must admit that the thought of someone else having to carry the heavy crap is appealing. But I'm not sure it is appealing enough to spend $3,000 on it.

We're also having a difficult time estimating the amount of space we'll need since there is all kinds of stuff that really won't stack and so takes up a much larger amount of space then you would normally think. We don't have as much furniture as many people, but we still have a disturbing amount when I think about trying to cram it and the garage and deck contents all into a 10x20 storage unit.

I'm sure we'll figure something out, but any suggestions would be highly appreciated.


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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Topics: None

I've been in something struggling lately to come up with things to blog about. Right now with moving, almost all of my free time is related in some way to either selling this house or buying the new one. Throw in a work schedule that as busy as always, if not more, I'm not up to a very wide variety of activities.

The trouble with that, when it comes to posting is that all three of these are under self-imposed restrictions for writing about. The house we are selling, is on radio silence, of course. Work has always been only rarely mentioned in any way other then "I'm busy", or "I'm traveling to some exotic location", or "We went out and did something fun instead of work today".

That leaves the new house, and blogging about that seems destined to annoy just about everyone. While I am excited about it, blogging about it every day for the next six months seems like a good way to drive all three of you away.

The end result is that I've painted myself in a corner where there is nothing to talk about. I'll do my best to think up a solution, until then assume posts might be even more sporadic then normal.

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Monday, July 13, 2009

Pallet Walkway

I was talking with my boss today about the new house, and he mentioned something that I hadn't fully considered before. We were talking about all the things that we won't be able to actually have completed when we move in in January because of the weather.

Specifically we were talking about how when he moved into his house in February, there was no driveway, no sidewalk or stoop, nor a garage floor (!), and how by spring you couldn't even drive up the driveway any more because it was a giant mud pit.

I was expecting some of those things, but the lack of a garage floor would suck. As will not being able to drive on the driveway. I joked that I wondered if Linzy knew she had signed up for a full winter of parking the car outside. The dog will surely love the spring mud pit as well.

My current hope is that they can at least do the garage floor early enough in the process that we'll have that.

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Sunday, July 12, 2009

Can't Stay Here

This weekend was filled with activities, none of which could really take place at home because we had multiple showings both days as well as an inspection on Saturday morning at 8am.

I foolishly thought once we had a fully signed purchase agreement, the showings would stop, but instead we needed to get through the inspection and even then didn't cancel the ones that were setup beforehand. I was amazed at the number of people who would go to see a house that is known to have an agreement pending. But I guess it was good to cover our bases, even if it did kill our ability to be at home during either Saturday or Sunday morning/afternoon.

So what did we do with all that free time? Well, spent a morning having breakfast with my parents, went to see The Hangover (somewhat funny, but not as consistently as other movies of the crass-humor genre), did some shopping, worked on annual reviews for work, etc.

Oh, and we bought a house. Or at least agreed to buy one in January when they finish building it for us. Next Saturday will be filled with design center activities, while they try to make back all of the incentive money we negotiated, and we try to resist the level 7 carpet upgrades. To show how this is likely to go, we just agreed to a price on Saturday and today were already back adding recessed lighting to the family room. Linzy insists we will hold to our budget, but we will see.

The house will be just a few miles down the road, so in the same general area. We're quite excited about having a brand-new house where we pick out everything, and I feel like we got a pretty good deal. We'll have four months completely debt free and then it will be back on the treadmill.


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Thursday, July 09, 2009

Sold!

On Monday, after one week on MLS, we got an offer on our house. After a day of counter-offers, everything was signed and now it is all over except the waiting. And the inspection, and wondering whether the buyer's financing will go through, and packing, and buying a new house, and moving....

Okay, so it's not all over, but certainly a big milestone.

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Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Lost Album

Yesterday on the bus ride to work I was looking for some music to listen to while I played my DS. In an attempt to find something different to listen to, I ended up settling on Opeth. I was thinking this was a CD I had downloaded quite a few months ago and then didn't really like as much as I was expecting and so didn't listen to it again.

But yesterday I thought perhaps I hadn't given it a fair shake and so that I should listen to it again. But when the CD cover came up it didn't look anything like what I was thinking the cover of the CD in question looked like. I recalled the other CD having a more-or-less green cover with a person of some sort on it.

So then I was racking my brain trying to recall who the other CD was by. Then last night it was really bothering me and I was trying to figure out how in the world I would be able to find it. My music collection is very modest by many standards, but it is still over 12,000 songs and many, many albums. And without a name (of an album, song, anything), it was virtually impossible to find.

I scanned through covers, I looked through artist names for something I didn't recognize, I checked genres knowing full well that was completely pointless since I don't standardize those. It was quite the bizarre situation, something that could have happened with physical CDs except that I hadn't really lost the music per-se, as it was still on the hard drive, I just couldn't find it.

In the end, I truly started thinking the album had been lost during the computer shuffle last fall and so I was looking on Wikipedia for Opeth CD covers. The one I did not check was Watershed, as this was the grey-covered CD, so then I started checking other similar band's pages for CD covers. Finally on a whim I went into Watershed's page only to see the exact cover I had been expecting to see this whole time. The grey cover was apparently an alternative cover that iTunes had downloaded, where as Windows Media Player previously used the green cover.

So I had known which CD it was the whole time, and even worse, it still was as unpleasant to my ears as I recalled it being!

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Tuesday, July 07, 2009

The Rest of the Weekend

In addition to going to New Ulm, Linzy and I managed to fill up the rest of our Fourth of July weekend pretty well. On Friday evening we went over to Brenden and Allison's for homemade pizza and a trip to the Bloomington fireworks.

The fireworks were a bit shorter then last year (budget constraints I assume) but were still really good. There were two new fireworks that I noticed, one that exploded into a three dimensional wireframe cube, and another that had little mini-explosions as it shot into the air. The one with the mini-explosions didn't merely have a trail behind it, but instead left a visible shower with little starbursts periodically. It ended up looking like a crazy palm tree once the final explosion happened.

On Saturday Linzy and cleaned the house to get it back to showing-level cleanliness and then went over to my parents house for the afternoon/evening. There we got to spend time with them as well as my sister and brother-in-law and niece. It was a fun time of playing with the baby and having a good meal (during which at no point was everyone all at the table together, due to Evie needing attention). After dinner we chatted and then watched the crazy New York firework display on TV. They had at least six separate and synchronized firework displays going, all of which looked like the grand finale of the Bloomington fireworks, all the time.

On Sunday I went and played 4e D&D with Bill, Chris, Fred and Brenden and had a blast doing that, while Linzy met up with Allison and Robin for brunch and some shopping. By the time we got home and did a few chores around the house, Linzy's brother had called to say that he was going to be in town and wanted to come over for dinner with his new girlfriend. So we put together a quick meal and spent a while chatting with them after dinner.

The end result was a busy weekend, but one that was a lot of fun.


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Monday, July 06, 2009

New Ulm

DSC_3719On Friday Linzy and I went to New Ulm, MN for a day trip. The trip was a delayed anniversary trip, as we have a tradition of making a day trip to a small town nearby and spending the day together wandering around and exploring a new place.

This year we decided to go back to New Ulm which we hadn't been to since Shawn and Andrea's wedding many years ago. It is about a two hour drive out there which is about perfect (versus the three hour trip to Lacrosse). We had an abbreviated time to spend in town since we had to be back in the Twin Cities for dinner, but an afternoon turned out to be plenty of time.

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We started our trip out with lunch at Viegel's Kaiserhoff, a German restaurant on main street downtown. The restaurant appeared to be filled mostly with locals and a few German tourists, so that seemed like a good sign. The food was very good, Linzy had a bratwurst sandwich and I had Wiener Schnitzel. After lunch we wandered around downtown checking out the nearby parks and historical monuments and buildings. It was fun to walk around downtown and listen to the music they play from the speakers on top of buildings and see the signs for polka night, and check out the Glockenspiel.

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After that we went up to Hermann Height Monument and climbed the monument in the rain. Linzy didn't go all the way to the top which turned out to be good because there was only a steep ladder/steps to get onto the top and it was fairly slippery due to the light rain. The view from the top was very cool though as you could see for miles and miles.

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From there we went out to the Schell Brewery for a tour, but unfortunately the place was packed and we couldn't get tickets for a tour that started soon enough. Instead we wandered the grounds and looked at the gardens and old house, and then drove down the road 8 miles or so to the Morgan Creek Vineyard.

The winery was pretty fancy for being out in the middle of farm country and a ways out of town. The wine was mostly Frontenac grape-based, and primarily sweet wines. Neither of which is my favorite, but we did find one wine that was quite tasty (the driest they offered).

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After that it was time to head back, but realistically other then the Schell Brewery we had exhausted our list of things to be done in New Ulm. It was a fun trip and the relatively short drive made it worthwhile, even just for an afternoon.

Full picture set


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Sunday, July 05, 2009

German Break-Dancing

And just like that, a long holiday weekend is over. Our weekend was just as busy as we were expecting, but it was a lot of fun. We did everything originally planned plus unexpectedly had Linzy's brother and his new girlfriend over for dinner tonight. Everything we did this weekend was as much fun as I was expecting, and so it made for a really good weekend.

Unfortunately all those activities plus some preparations for this week at work conspired against me being able to write anything long and detailed about what we did this weekend. I will share this little bit.

New Ulm is an extremely German town, and has a bit of a reputation as an 'older' town. So I was surprised to see the "Beat Shack" just a few blocks from main street where German music plays from the loudspeakers. Even better was the sign that was on the front-door saying "Food + Pop + Break-dance Boy INSIDE".

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Because, you know, where else would you keep a Break-dance Boy?

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Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Busy Weekend

The holiday this weekend will mean a long weekend, and I am looking forward to it. It will not exactly be filled with idling at home though.

On Friday Linzy and I are going to New Ulm for the day, as a late anniversary activity, and then that evening we are eating dinner with friends and watching fireworks. On Saturday we have a full day to spend with my sister, brother and niece at my parent's house. Sunday I'll be gaming for the first time in many, many months with Brenden, Fred, Chris, Andy, and Bill.

I'm really looking forward to all of those things, as well as having a day off work. It should be fun, if busy.


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