Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Uncomfortable

The new bus route I take has many more buses then the previous route, so the buses tend to be less crowded in general with no standing required. Last week I happened to end up on a relatively crowded bus home. It was one of the smaller buses where the back is a U-shaped area of seats, three parallel to the walls of the bus facing each other and another five across the back of the bus.

This arrangement tends to feel like you are much closer to people because on the side seats there are three people crammed on each side, and you are staring at the people directly across the aisle. In addition to the people in the back seat are staring right at the people in the side seats.

Anyways, this day all but one seat on the bus was taken, and I ended up in the back U section. Directly across the aisle was a guy sitting sideways on his seat taking up two spots, looking directly at the other person sharing the bench.

Sidesaddle-guy was on his cell phone the entire bus ride home breaking up with his girlfriend. Loudly.

There is not much comfortable about being in close proximity to someone who is ranting into the phone about someone's flaws, while loudly denying the flaws they are being accused of. The craziest part was when in the middle of a tirade the guy goes "Wait, I have to go, there's another call". Hangs up, takes another short call in a relatively normal tone of voice, and then immediately hangs up, calls the girlfriend back and starting ranting again.

It was entertaining.


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Monday, December 21, 2009

House: Week 14

DSC_4830Last week in house construction was a slow one, reminiscent of the week (or more?) where they kept working on finishing the roof sheathing very, very slowly. At one point we were three days or more ahead of the theoretical schedule, but now things have slowed down to the point where we appear to be right back on schedule.

There was some progress, the second coat of paint was put on all the walls, and looks very nice. Not too many noticeable drips, nor areas where it was put on too thin. They also installed the garage doors and openers. The tiling was started, they got tiles on the shower and bathtub in the master bathroom, and put down the cement board in all the other rooms.

That's something, I guess, but not quite as much as we were hoping for. This week will be relatively uneventful, with most of the week spent finishing the ceramic tile. It should be interesting to see how they stick to the schedule around the holidays, as it only has three days 'off', Christmas, New Years Day, and the Monday after New Years.

Despite my complaining, we do continue to inch towards completion at the end of January, and I am getting pretty excited.


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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Shiny Couches

 Linzy and I have been on a serious hunt lately trying to find new furniture for the family room of the new house. If you are familiar at all with Linzy and I, we've been looking for a family room couch for...oh...about as long as we've been married. So you can probably safely lump us into the 'picky' category.

After exhausting all the usual suspects last weekend, tonight we went way off the board and hit Becker furniture outlet, Bassett Furniture, and somewhere I haven't been for probably 8-9 years, Slumberland.

Long ago I wrote off Slumberland, and the only reason we went there tonight was because we had gone through Bassett and Becker in 25 minutes and it felt silly to go home that quickly. So I talked Linzy into going into Slumberland for fun.

And it was amusing. I'm pretty sure they had much of the same furniture they did when I was in college and Slumberland was acceptable. In addition, they did allow me to win my bet with Linzy that they would have a new (not floor model) leather-look couch and loveseat combo for less then $1000. That piece of loveliness is pictured above in all of its shiny, plasticy glory.

It felt about like you would expect, that is terrible, but we got a good laugh out of it. We did find two couches that were reasonably comfy, but they bordered on ugly and were not as cheap as you might expect.

And so the search continues.

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Double for Nothing

This morning I had an appointment so by the time I was ready to go to work it was late and I just drove in rather than taking the bus. Since it was terribly cold, I decided not to park at the cheaper-but-further-away outdoor lot that I use in the summer and instead go for the much more expensive semi-enclosed parking ramp closer to my building.

Unfortunately it was after 9 by the time I got there, so I didn't qualify for the early bird rates (which, while still more then the outdoor lot, are more reasonable). On top of that the ramp turned out to be crazy full, so the only spot I could find was on the roof, outside.

Basically I ended up paying twice as much as the outdoor lot, but still had my car sitting outside. At least it didn't snow, so I suppose it could have been worse.


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Sunday, December 13, 2009

House: Week 13

DSC_4748
On Saturday, Linzy and I went over to check the progress on the new house. The painter was actually at the house working as it appears that he is quite a bit behind schedule. All of the wood was stained and he was just finishing up the first coat on the last room. Assuming he worked all week, that would have been his sixth day at the job, which is all that was originally scheduled.

At the start of the week we were running about two days ahead of schedule, but it looks like we'll get back on the originally planned schedule assuming two days to put a second coat on the whole house. That's a little disappointing since it feels like we are so close to complete, but there isn't much we can do.

On a positive note the stained woodwork looks great, and the paint color is very nice well. Next week will be finishing the painting and then possibly some ceramic tile, but we'll have to wait until next weekend to find out for sure.


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Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Negotiations

DSC_3803Back in 1998, when I was still in college my parents did a major remodeling on their kitchen. Floor, cabinets, appliances, counters, everything. During the process (which was lengthy) there was an extended period of time when the former above-the-stove microwave would be removed and the new one could not be installed because the cabinets wouldn't be done. So my parents bought an inexpensive counter-top microwave to use temporarily.

About 6 months later, I was done with college and moving into an apartment and was in need of a microwave. By that time the kitchen was done, so I inherited the extra microwave. While it wasn't the fanciest microwave, it worked well enough for my purposes and so I never bought anything newer/better. Eventually it moved into the apartment Linzy and I had, during which the display broke. Not completely, but the numbers started not showing up completely or segments would flash on and off.

Not a big deal, and it didn't affect the actual operation of the microwave, so again we never bought anything newer/better. That microwave traveled with us to the old house and lasted another 8 years there.

Then this summer we sold the house. The first offer we got on the house had the usual clauses written in for various things they wanted, including appliances. They didn't list the washer and dryer, but they did write in by hand 'Microwave' on the purchase agreement.

Linzy and I were both highly amused that they took the time to write in our 11 year-old, $50, discolored, broken-display microwave. I assume they didn't know the display was broken and were just writing up the same purchase agreement language the Realtor always used. But it was pretty funny to imagine if we wanted to haggle over the microwave and that became the deal breaker. Especially since the new house comes with a much fancier microwave, making the counter-top model completely superfluous.

[ In the picture above, was the microwave display on a relatively good day, displaying 8888. You can also kind of see how the whole side with the control panel had yellowed compared with the rest of the microwave ]


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Monday, December 07, 2009

Weekend

With the holidays and everything else going on, it seems like things are pretty busy. This weekend was no exception, as it flew by.

On Saturday we went to the builder's design center to try to pick out new carpet for the house. The previous one was discontinued, so we are trying to work out what we can get in time to keep the house on schedule without blowing the budget. Then we visited the house in the afternoon to see the progress. Saturday night we went out to dinner with Paul, Laura, Matt, Jenny, Brenden, Allison, Fred and Robin, which was a lot of fun. We also got to see the Brenden and Allison's new house nearby and had a good time playing games over at Fred and Robin's later that night.

Sunday was a full day as I took one of my co-workers who is visiting the US out for some sight-seeing. We went to the MN Zoo to see the animals, and it was interesting to compare it to the Bannerghatta zoo. I also took him over to Buck Hill because he wanted to see snow and had never seen downhill skiing and snowboarding. We didn't do any other then take pictures and watch what people were doing, but that was fun.

By the time I got home, it was time for Dinner and then watching the Vikings get destroyed on national TV. And next thing you know it was Monday and time for work again. Where does the time go?

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Sunday, December 06, 2009

House: Week 12

DSC_4724Last week the progress on the house was all exterior work, with painting, driveway installation, etc. This week it was all about the interior.

The baseboard and window trim was installed. All the doors were hung, and virtually all cabinets were put in place, with the exception of the kitchen island. The trim, doors and cabinets really make the place look like a house as there are very few visible holes in the floor left, closets are closed off, etc.

In addition, the furnace has been installed along with what looks like all the venting and the fireplace was put in. While we were at the house the painter was dropping off equipment so that he can start painting and staining the place on Monday.

I'm excited to see what the house looks like, especially after seeing the stained fireplace.

DSC_4719 DSC_4718


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Thursday, December 03, 2009

Lucky Timing

On Monday we were finally able to lock the rate for the loan on our new house. The time limits on rate locks meant that for the last four months we were floating in totally predictable rate territory. I wasn't even watching the rates because I figured it would just make me nervous about something I couldn't control. Imagine my surprise on Monday then, when I found out that it happened to be on a day that set historical lows for rates.

Strangely, home loan timing appears to be the only thing on the planet that I am lucky at. The previous two times we refinanced loans was in April '03 and April '04, which as you can see in this chart were near random significant temporary dips in rates.

Clearly we will have to try hard never to refinance or move again, as it can't possibly work out a fourth time.

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Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Empty

This morning on the way to the bus station I realized that I should probably stop for gas, so I went a little out of my way to a BP station. Only to find out that they had covered up all the regular and premium gas pumps and had only mid-grade available. That seemed a little weird so I decided to go to the station across the street. Which had no gas. None. They had little signs on the pumps that said "We have no gas, sorry".

How poorly do you have to be mismanaged in order to completely and utterly run out of gas as a gas station? They still had lights on in the convenience store section, but if you wanted to be a grocery store, there are probably better ways to go about that then to first buy a gas station and then sell all the gas.

Rather then going back to the mid-grade-only station, I just went back to the bus station. Tonight I ended up buying gas at the formerly mid-grade-only station, which was restocked. The no-gas station on the other hand, was still out of gas.

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Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Thanksgiving

I had a good Thanksgiving this year, like basically every year. What's not to like about spending time with family, eating all kinds of good food, and getting extra time off work?

Back at work this week, of course, the topic of conversation the past few days was how the holiday was for various people, what they did, etc. The interesting thing about Thanksgiving is that basically everyone does something for it, which means almost everyone feels safe asking others about it.

Where as for something like Christmas, everyone dances around actually asking what people did for Christmas, asking how their holidays were, or whether they enjoyed the extra time off work, etc. Only with closer work friends do people seem to talk about the actual holidays, once they know it is a mutual subject.

When we were in England on the other hand, even though it was the end of October, the big topic of conversation at the office was making plans for a fancy office Christmas dinner. Where to go, who could come what day, whether other groups had made their plans yet, etc. Not a "holiday party", or "end of the year dinner", it was always called a Christmas dinner.

I thought the difference was interesting.


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