Snoqualmie Ridge

Amy and I have settled in on Snoqualmie Ridge, a Master Planned Community about 25 miles east of downtown Seattle. Very nice area, homes that we can afford, parks and schools closeby, and a rapidly improving school district (due to growth in the area we expect the schools to continue to improve).

Actually, we will settle for anything in Snoqualmie, but Snoqualmie Ridge is very nice.

Internet coming of age

These aren't new services, but I am new to them. I'm getting impressed with the services available around broadband and the convenience it's driving to my life.

First, let's start with MLB TV - Major League Baseball TV delivered over the Internet. Last weekend wanted to catch the Sox/Cubs series (go Sox baybee), but do not get WGN on cable here. So, was following the stats on the internet, and followed a link to MLB TV to learn more about it. Turns out they have a two week free trial available, so we tried it out. So far, very impressive. You can catch any game live you want, restricted by local broadcast contracts. Streams it right to Windows Media Player, and can watch the game full screen. It's the live TV broadcast feed, and the audio/video quality is excellent. Regular services is $15/mo or $80 for the season; I expect to sign up (probably monthly) in a week or so.

This would be a cool NFL Sunday Ticket option. Better yet if you could watch multiple games at once... assuming broadband can handle that bandwidth.

Second, we have given Vonage a try. So far, so good, although the jury is out. Vonage provides a broadband router with two phone jacks, allowing you to plug regular phones into it to get Voice-over-IP capabilities. We signed up for the $14.99/month plan, which gives us 500 minutes a month.

Phone quality is very good, latency is good, and no technical problems setting the phone up with the VoIP router - it's a simple plug and play.

Some nice Vonage features:
1. We will be able to talk our phone number with us, even if we move out of Seattle.
2. We can register alias numbers and link them to our account; so, someone could make a local call to us. This option costs $5/month with a $10 setup fee, so we're hoping others sign up for Vonage.
3. Account information, call details, and voicemail available over the web.

The one annoyance is all the setup/change fees. I would think with the level of automation they should have changing options should be zero-cost to Vonage and free to the customer; however, they charge to make a change in anything. Want to sign up for a more expensive plan? They charge you a setup fee for that.

By the way, you can get a free month of Vonage if you get invited from a Vonage customer; just ask them for an invitation and you they'll send you one.


Challenge Vader

Being the loser I am, I often spend a weekend night googling for random stuff, just to clear my mind and recharge. Tonight, I ran across this site. Pretty funny. I'm guessing it's based off 20q.net (a site we ran across at Whirlpool during our ventures into the world of AI). Quite a clever adaptation.

And yes, Lord Vader DID guess Spencer was thinking of a light-saber.


Wow, what a housing market

So I get a call at work Thursday from Amy suggesting she found a house that I need to see. I try to get it pushed back to Friday or Saturday, but she insists we need to see it that night.

It's been on the market three days. At the time Amy called (3pm) there were no offers on the house. So, we arrange to go see it at 6ish. By the time we get there, two offers are on the house. By the time we're done viewing it, four offers are in on the house. So, five minutes into the car ride home we decide we'll put an offer in. We do the paperwork this morning, and the total number of offers at that point is 7 (including ours). We offer 5% above asking price. Found out at 6pm tonight that we did not get the house, apparently to someone waiving an inspection (the house had had some water damage... no way we weren't getting an inspection).

And that's the way the market is these days. Microsoft, Amazon, Adobe, and Google are all hiring like crazy in the Seattle area, and that's just the companies I know about.

Supposedly houses in our parameters come onto the market with regularity. Our realtor knows what we're looking for, so hopefully she keeps us in the loop as soon as something comes onto the market.


The sun will come out...

today! Boo ya! Got to see the sun after being here 10 days =) Ok, I'm exaggerating, but not by much. First blue sky day since we've been here. Beautiful views all the way around.

A couple pictures of Mt. Rainier as taken from our apartment balcony.


The whole tourist thing

Decided to do a couple tourist things while we were here and take a break from our transition. We live a couple blocks from Pike Place Market, so we hit there this morning. Loved the bite-sized donuts. Interesting marketplace; not to busy, quite a variety, not too big. Can see ourselves stopping by quite often to pick up our dinner.

The Seattle Art Museum is right across the street from our apartment; Spencer loves "The Hammer Guy"

Pike Place Market

After an hour of being pushed around Garrett was pooped!

In the afternoon, we headed down to the Space Needle. Probably a mile and a half from where we live, the Space Needle is part of the Seattle Center, which also includes KeyArena, the Science Center, and a bunch of other attractions.

Atop the Space Needle


Some Pictures

Nope, no tourist pictures. Just some with Spence and Garrett.

Spencer on the plane

Garrett just loves his new activity center

Putting together a new Star Wars LEGO set.

Thank you to Grandma Reagan for procuring a Birthday Cookie for Spencer (damn it was tasty)

A fast paced week

Sheesh, seems like we've been in Seattle longer than five days.

Amy has spent three days looking for houses. That is not going well at all. While we were ready for high prices (having spent 12 years in the Chicago area), what we weren't expecting is what you DON'T get for all that money. Seems that all the nice views of mountains and water comes with a price: turns out that DIRT is damn valuable here. People talk of lots in terms of feet by feet (as in "90 ft by 80 ft"), rather than in acres. Good news is that Seattle is pretty small geography wise (meaning you can get anywhere really quickly), and there's not much traffic to speak of, at least relative to Chicago.

So we've resigned ourselves to owning a piece of propery that can be mowed with a pair of scissors. Good news is that there are a lot of good areas to live; in fact, there are few, if any, bad areas outside of the city of Seattle itself. And even within Seattle there are a number of attractive areas. Amy's doing a great job of understanding the area. In fact, as she told me... "do you REALLY want to take care of a big yard when it rains every day?" Good point.

Spencer has been loading up on Star Wars legos. I must say, he has some cool stuff (I particularly like the Darth Vader Transformation. He has adjusted very well; has not asked to "go home" once, and refers to our apartment as home.

Looks like the closing date on our house will be June 7th. Not as early as we would have liked, but we're thrilled to have gotten it sold as quickly as we did.

Work is great already. Love the job (as overwhelming as it is being a new guy and trying to come up to speed on the complexity that is Amazon.com... that they tame all that complexity and keep it from the public is amazing!), and the people I'm interacting with are a great help. Really looking forward to the day that I feel like I understand what I'm up against.

My office (next to Qwest and Safeco Fields) is about a mile from our apartment, and I've been walking it every day. Even with the short commute I have only made it home once at a decent hour this week.

I did get broadband up and running last night; but I stupidly failed to pack my access point, so I have to swap the Ethernet cable back and forth between my personal laptop (when Amy's using it) and my work laptop. And the XBox is sitting on a moving van, so no Friday night XBox Live for me =(

Garrett is growing up very fast! We got him a "stand-up play thingy" (basically a walker that doesn't move) and he loves it. He is starting to grab things, and will push buttons to make noise. He even rolled over for the first time our first night in Seattle, and has done so almost every night. And thankfully he still sleeps through the night. Saturday he will be four months already.

Haven't done much sightseeing yet. Saturday we plan to head to the Pike Street Market and spend a good deal of time there, both as tourists and as shoppers. It's only three blocks from where we live.

My car is here already (BOO YA!), but Amy's is still stuck in Illinois. Go figure. I'll tell you this: there are some STEEP hills in Seattle, and I am not looking forward trying to get my car up Madison street in a 6-speed!

Will try to post some pictures tonight...


Sleeping in Seattle

After some hiccups the last couple of weeks in getting things planned and arranged for our move out here, surpringly the last few days (pack, load, fly, getting into our new apartment) went very smoothly. Arrived in Seattle Saturday night (Spencer had first class in stitches... he was jumping up and down "HOORAAAYY! HOORRAYY! WE'RE IN SEE-AHHH-TOOOE!"), unpacked our whopping three suitcases, and headed to the mall Sunday to load up on clothes, toys, and food.

Nice location we're at: a view of Puget Sound, the hills to the South, and Qwest Field (where the Seahawks play). A couple blocks from Pike Street Market.

We have to use a public computer until our broadband gets hooked up to our apartment (I'm surprised a town like Seattle doesn't have access points all over the place), but at least we get to access the Internet.

When we do get broadband we will be signing up for Vonage; that way we will take our new phone number with us wherever we go, no matter how many times we move in the next few years.

And yes it rained this morning and was cloudy all day. Duh. =)


Cars are on their way

The car carrier folks showed up at 7am this morning and hauled away our two vehicles... will see them in 12 days.

Movers are here today as well. Three people, and they had to park on the road adjacent to our property rather than the road that our driveway feeds. I think it's going to be a long day and night getting all of our stuff onto the truck. It's pretty cold here today, and some thunderstorms were expected. Looking at The Weather Channel, it looks like those storms made their way north of here. Whew.

Cable modem has to be taken back to Comcast today, so will be without Internet for a while. That will seem weird. Not sure how the world survived before people could transfer money between financial accounts online...


The packers are here

No, not the Green Bay Packers, thank God. The fine packers from our local Allied Van Lines agency are here and going through the house like Sherman's march to Atlanta (I think I got my history straight). Like it or not, the wheels are in motion for our journey to the Pacific Northwest.

Was able to see my folks for a couple days and they helped us get the house ready for the packers. Also went down to Purdue on Monday to see some old friends. Nice to say good-bye one last time to everyone who used to be a small drive away.

Was impressed to see a Potbelly's down in West Lafayette. Potbelly's was a favorite sandwich hangout of Amy and mine back in Chicago. Back then it was a small hole-in-the-wall on Franklin. In fact, I'm pretty sure Amy and I provided all the capital the owners needed to launch new stores!

We are staying at the Holiday Inn in Michigan City the next couple of nights. Saturday morning the bus picks us up at the hotel and takes us to O'Hare. Very convenient.

Believe it or not, Spencer is excited about the move. He keeps asking every time he gets in the car "Are we going to Seattle?" (or as he pronouces it... see-ah-TOE). We'll see how he reacts once we are there, when I can just see a chorus of "are we going home?" from him.

Will keep everyone posted on our activity via this blog. Great to get all the feedback from people that actually take time out of their busy day to read this.


Start the launch sequence

Thursday the packers show up, and we are running around trying to tidy up odds and ends around here. Mainly shutting everything down and readying our gear we are going to take with us on the place (not much). In three days we will be on our way to begin a huge new chapter in our life whether we are ready or not. And at this point I'm not sure we're ready! Not from an emotional standpoint, but from getting our house in order - my goodness we've acquired a lot of junk over the years!

We were unable to close on our house this week, and turns out it might take longer than expected as we have not heard from the buyer's mortgage company which needs to arrange an appraisal. So we likely won't close for a couple of weeks there. Too bad =(


Spencer's Party

Had a good time yesterday and Amy and I were very happy with the turnout for yesterday's impromptu Birthday Party for Spencer. Had about 15 kids and 25 adults show up. Too bad the weather was horrible; while "inland" whether was 70 and sunny, near the lake we were blessed with clouds and 45 degree weather. Some very shocked people who showed up in shorts and tee-shirts! Thank you everyone for dropping by for a last get together.

Special thanks to my cousin Angie for making one of her infamous cakes and driving three hours to bring it to us! DEE-LISH-US!

Special thanks to Jeff for dressing up as Spiderman. As Amy said, "have three beers before a kids party and he'll do anything!"

Having sold my grill a couple weeks ago, we were forced to use our Grill2Go for cooking up some dogs and burgers (ok, turkey burgers). Turned out better than I expected.

And thanks to everyone that cleared a little bit of junk out of our garage. Pretty bad we have so much stuff lying around that we can't even given away!

Now, if we can only time it so we can get our friends out to Seattle at the same time...


Yet another garage sale

Why not, eh? In cleaning our house out we keep finding stuff to junk... but maybe someone will find treasure in it. I was pleasantly surprised at last week's turnout. With better weather this weekend, that probably means more Chicagoans here, but also probably means more people are at the beach or on their boats.


A little blogging on the Whirlpool exit

Tuesday was my last day at Whirlpool. I meant to blog about it earlier, but just getting around to catching up on my blog posts now.

Pretty smooth transition from Whirlpool, primarily because I finally learned to do a much better job delegating rather than having my fingers in all the projects in the Connected Home program. Plus, I have some really smart and talented people working for me (no, really, I do) that made it easy.

Hard part of leaving wasn't the people that I will naturally stay in touch with; it was those great people I've met that I probably will not be able stay in touch with and saying goodbye to them for what truly was a goodbye. When I compiled my goodbye email, I was shocked that there were so many people (I stopped counting when the list reached 100) that I had worked closely with over my three years there.

I know I will miss Whirlpool for a long time; or, more specifically, I will miss the people there. Even up until the last day I kept thinking of "my projects" and "my team." I would bet good money I will not find another company with the combination of intelligence, ethics, and decency that Whirlpool's people exhibit. Simply amazing that a boring appliance manufacturing company in boring SW Michigan is doing so many great things with such a diverse set of technologies and nobody outside of Whirlpool knows about it.

Spencer's Birthday Party

Will be having Spencer's Birthday Party on Saturday, May 7th. Very surprised so many people can make it on three days notice, but we will have a good turnout. Too bad I sold my grill last weekend! But hey, what a great opportunity to get rid of all that GROUND TURKEY sitting in the freezer!

Will be fun. Have a Superman cake ordered, and a Superman "air jumpy thingy" will be delivered, set up, and taken down for us (I need to check my liability insurance).

The house will be in, uh, an interesting state. Semi clean, readying for move, and the lawn hasn't been touched all spring. And we are going to try a garage sale again Saturday. What we don't get rid of we can use as door prizes =)

I can't believe Spencer is four already. Between his birthday and dad's guilt of disrupting his home environment, I think he already knows he gets whatever he wants =)

The transition period

Things are already off to a fast start with Amazon.com. Have had a couple nice conference calls, have reviewed a bunch of documentation, and have had an account set up for me for the product I will own. All that and I don't start work for another week =) I must say, I'm very excited to get on board and contribute. The people I will be working have a great deal of passion and zeal to change the world - I am lucky to be joining them.

While the job appears to get better and better, the move portion of this is getting worse and worse. Amy and I are at our wits end at the number of simple problems that the moving coordinators can't seem to handle... things as simple as having our kids sit next to us on a plane (which the airlines will force you to do anyway). I'm not kidding, they've actually done that. Almost lost our pack and move dates because "oops gee we didn't send the moving company that information," and so on. We didn't even get to take a house hunting trip because they couldn't get one scheduled. Actually, they did get one scheduled... AN ELEVEN HOUR TRIP BETWEEN SOUTH BEND AND SEATTLE. Yeah, that's realistic with a 4 year old and a 3 month old. Argh. Like I said, our wits end. Would have much prefered to handle all the details ourselves and just have Amazon reimburse us. Instead, we are actually spending more time babysitting the process and making people aware of the missing details than we would have if we just handled this ourselves. Argh.

Good news is that we will end up in Seattle someday soon. My boss seems very understanding and seems supportive in this process - he was even kind enough to put us in touch with a realtor. And I will have a great job, live in a great school district, have a great way of life, and give my two sons a great environment. I truly am thankful to have our current problems - I realize some are not as fortunate to have "problems" we are facing. Still, it is very trying, and it hurts worse when I see Amy getting upset over the ordeal. She is supportive and excited, but needs some transition time, and needs more than the 3.5 weeks we've given ourselves (I keep telling her there's shopping in Seattle but that doesn't seem to help).