Sunday, April 23, 2006

Three weeks—my goodness!

The last few posts I made were three weeks ago. Sonomabitsu!
It has been a completely busy three weeks. Here's what I've been up to:
First and foremost, there've been taxes. Getting the taxes done is always a chore as a self-employed person, but they got done. It was later than I'd promised the Babe and I'm sorry about that. I'll try harder next year and we'll get them in earlier.
Next, the new house is zipping forward. The construction crews started framing near the end of March and have most of the frame completed at this point. It's the style of the home builder to build the outside of the house first and they then do the interior. It's a little unusual, I grant you, but they explained that they can work enclosed under a roof that way, which is no small thing here in the Pacific Northwest. We've made our final choices on all the options we get to choose--cherry floors and cabinets, brushed plumbing features, ivory berber carpet, among other things--and the inside is going to be painted in a light gold color (Benjamin Moore's "Popcorn Kernel") and a dark, rich blue ("Chicago Blues," ibid.) for the front hall and stair, you'll see a rich blue-and-gold contrast with lots of white trim. In fact, there'll be white wainscoting, molding, and trim, and the ceilings will be white.
We weren't able to get much change on the choices in tiling in the master bath: we could have light travertine or dark travertine. We don't care for travertine in most any form and it's on its way out architecturally ("Oh, that house is so 2006!") but the light travertine is truly the most neutral and it doesn't suck rocks completely. Oddly, the upstairs bathroom (which has a skylight) can be done in any of a dozen different tile colors and we were able to choose a nice mottled dirty-tan-and-gold color that will go nicely with Susan the Wonder Child's bamboo plants and the like.
Now, you gotta understand that just because we're having the house painted in these two colors (with the white ceilings, of course) by the builder, it doesn't mean that we're going to have these as the only two colors… or that our bedroom will be light yellow. It's just that we only get two colors for free; more would cost and our builder, great guy that he is, is very clear that he's doing tract homes rather than custom work, so we don't want to stress him out too much. We'll be doing some additional painting in a few places before we move in (light yellow is an easy color to paint over). The upstairs bathroom, for example, will probably be a green to complement the tile work. My office, while we've not decided, may well have a wall done in apricot and the others in some other color (shucks, or leave them light yellow; apricot and a light yellow and a rich wood floor could be very attractive).
To go along with the new house looking like it'll be done on schedule, we've been spending money on packing up large numbers of boxes into a storage pod, the first of which is now off in its storage unit with all the contents safely stowed away. In the course of things, we've been doing some sifting of things and coming up with HUGE ENORMOUS PILES of stuff to give to St. Vincent's or something. Susan the Wonder Child had four or five bags of miscellaneous clothes that she sloughed from her closet. We've found a lot of books that don't need to continue their journeys with us. I've been finding some reference books that can get dumped. The Babe dug into our rather unsightly stacks of sheets and towels and eliminated perhaps half a dozen sheet sets that were cotton/poly (most of which were mine, I admit it--I didn't know about the wonders of 100% cotton for a couple years and so I bought sheet sets that I liked for the prints without being aware that blended sheets feel rougher).
Some of this is really the house-merging that the Babe and I have never really had a chance to do. When we moved to Indiana, I packed up her house and my house, rather on a dead run, and we didn't see what our stuff looked like together and what we could eliminate. A lot of things never got unpacked in Indiana because we were never settled there and the Babe moved out to Eugene first and I got to pack up the house again. I was able to dump a lot of baseball cards that weren't worth what it would cost to move them from stash left by the Babe's late husband Larry (it's still the better part of a ton of baseball cards and some basketball cards and football cards and Star Trek cards and things like that; we'll be glad to sell them), but there was a lot of stuff that got moved simply because it was there. This move, however, I've been clear that I will not be the only person to be packing things up and toting. I've done that twice with the Babe and once years ago with Patricia and I think I've done my bit.
We have, however, found a wonderful person named Chris, who runs a company called HandyMa'am. She does housecleaning, organizing packing, and the like. We like her and she's been a gods-send to us. She's also reasonably inexpensive for the services she's giving us, so we're able to get everything done for not nearly so much money.
Part of cleaning the house to sell is arranging to sell it. We've talked to our realtor and we're going to list it in mid-May so she can show it Memorial Day weekend for the anticipated crowds of buyers and all... but there may be something fun before that. As I was packing up the storage pod (which arrived in a trailer), one of the neighbors across the street stopped by and asked about our moving plans. They know we're building a house and are moving, but it looked fairly imminent. Her parents are keen to move to Eugene and have in fact been driving up periodically from Lodi, CA, to look at houses and drop off another trailer load of stuff in storage. They even looked at the house we own when it was originally on the market. They're going to be up in Eugene on Sunday and they'll come look at the house. The idea of living across the street from their daughter, son-in-law, grandson, and soon to be granddaughter is enormously appealing to them. The advantage to us is that we could save a ton of realtor fees if this happens. If we'd solicited this, I'd feel sleazy not listing it, but they approached us. If this goes through, I'm sure we'll give our realtor a payment of some kind just because she's been great and her time's worth something.
One of the most pleasing pieces of news is that I've got a couple of contracts now, a small one and a big one. The small one is with Symantec, where I'll be putting together some training for a writing group on writing basics, information architecture basics, and some specifics on how they can write better, more effective knowledge base articles. Nice stuff and there could well be follow-on work for all I know. The BIG contract is with a company in Southern California that makes factory automation software. They need a lot of manuals worked on (I'm guessing 1500 pages for the first project) and they keep saying that they want a "long-term" relationship with me... where a one-year contract is not a "long-term" relationship. I'm working for a really great person and I'm going through the agency of one of my all-time favorite STC people, so I have high hopes for this. I'll be traveling to SoCal regularly for this, which is slightly pestiferous, but, heavens, I'll bear up somehow.
In fact, I'm drafting all of this blog entry in the John Wayne (Orange County) and San Francisco airports because I've been down in SoCal all this week doing training and finding out about the project I'll be working on. I did pretty well on the packing for the trip, although I think I can refine this some on the next trip down here: I forgot to bring sunglasses, for example, and I brought a couple computer accessories I just didn't need.
I'm using my brand new laptop to write this on. It's an HP Pavilion dv8000. I needed some kind of laptop for this trip because I just couldn't expect to borrow the Babe's for a week and leave her without a computer. I'm not entirely happy buying HP computers as a rule because they have such incredibly sucky service and you'd probably just as soon as hit yourself in the head with a rock rather than deal with their typical customer support folks.
(Just so everyone knows, I returned an HP desktop last year completely unopened because my experience trying to reach a customer support person to find out if they had a hardware manual for this computer was so obnoxious. As it ultimately turned out--and it took me the better part of an hour to get to someone who knew--they don't supply a hardware manual because they want me to phone them to find out how to do something. If they're willing to tell me, they'll step me through it. If they don't think I should be doing this, however, then they won't tell me and I must supposedly take my computer to an HP authorized service center. No, no, I replied, I bought this computer to own it, not to lease it. I returned it with a nasty letter and went out and bought a computer with the parts I specified from a local grey-market assembler. It's a much better box for about the same cost and, oddly enough, I have all the hardware manuals so I know how to fix it if something goes wrong. Or I can take it to the repair person of my choice.)
Suffice it to say, the idea of having to phone HP support for anything might be sufficient cause for me to avoid buying an HP computer every again. Nevertheless, this laptop actually looked good enough to risk it. It's got a 17" widescreen display that's incredibly crisp. I'm running at 1440x900 bits at 32-bit color, so that aquarium program you see on the computers in Office Despot (where I bought this one) is very realistic. The wide format also means that I have a real number pad on the keyboard, not to mention a keyboard that's real size and fairly easy to use. The display lights are also really pretty: the thing just looks pretty cool. So I'm happy with it. I bought the extended warranty on it from the folks at the Eugene Office Despot (who were incredibly helpful and knowledgeable, by the way) and they said that with the warranty, if anything goes wrong, then I can phone their service department and then they will put up with HP's crappy customer service. Hey, I'm willing to pay for that!
I'm going to put this down for the time being and go do something else on the computer. I'm really tired (being on the road for a week always does that to me). I'm really glad that I'll be home with the Babe, Susan the Wonder Child, and the cats this evening and I'll get to sleep in my own bed again at last.
(Addendum: it's Sunday morning, I got home without incident, and even got to bed at a vaguely civilized hour. My files are synchronized from the laptop and we're off to church to sing for both services this morning.)



Sarah said...

"Susan the Wonder Child had four or five bags of miscellaneous clothes that she sloughed from her closet." Hey, don't forget that the Wonder Child's cast off clothing would be greatly appreciated by her starving graduate student sister. Then I won't have to steal as much clothing from her room the next time that I visit.
(Also, what do I have to do to get an epithet as well?)

And, are you concerned about how well ivory carpet is going to mesh with the family committment to cat ownership?

John Hedtke said...

"Susan the Wonder Child had four or five bags of miscellaneous clothes that she sloughed from her closet." Hey, don't forget that the Wonder Child's cast off clothing would be greatly appreciated by her starving graduate student sister. Then I won't have to steal as much clothing from her room the next time that I visit.

I'll ask your mother to help with this; she'll know far better than I what you might like. But to my inexpert (aka "male") eye, there's probably a lot that would be good. Is there anything in particular you're interested in?

(Also, what do I have to do to get an epithet as well?)

I'll see what comes up. Susan is also known as the Demon Child and "Susan the Wonder Ferret," you realize, so life is not a complete chair of bowlies.

And, are you concerned about how well ivory carpet is going to mesh with the family committment to cat ownership?

This was, in fact, a sigificant discussion point when we were choosing the carpet. The Babe is concerned about this showing stains, but I'm not as concerned. The woman who is the coordinator for the custom fittings says that she has cats and kids and that she has the same color of carpet and she would appear to be getting away with it.