January 4, 2006

2005 in review - life

hmmm...looks like 2005 ended up much like 2006: i managed to make blog entries for the first half of the year, but then things got a bit crazy and i never quite got back to another entry in the second half of the year. lets see if i can't fix that in 2006.

the big excitement for 2005 was jenn and i buying our first house. by the beginning of the summer we were starting to seriously talk about buying a house. jenn had been researching the market in the areas we were interested in, so we had a good idea of our price range. we had some savings for a down payment and plans for getting the rest together between then and when we'd actually buy. we talked to a mortgage specialist at our bank and got pre-approved (Sarah was wonderful and we can't recommend her enough. email me if you're looking to get a mortgage in the GTA and i'll pass the info along.)

after all that we still didn't think we'd really end up buying a house until this spring. jenn was still avidly watching MLS, and she spotted a place that was in our area and about the size we were looking for, but still a bit high price-wise. then she noticed it drop in price and got more curious. a couple weeks later she saw it drop again, now definitely within our price range, and got even more curious. the dropping price had us concerned that there was something really wrong with it (and as long time renters we've seen some pretty awful places), but we decided to go take a look anyway. her parent were in town visiting for a couple days, so they came along for our first visit.

when we got to the house we liked it right away. great neighbourhood and a quiet little crescent, so low traffic. it was a brick house, with a garage, and a decent sized yard. brand new looking central air. all good so far. went inside and we found a nice 3 bedroom house with 1.5 bath and an unfinished basement. the whole place had recently been given a coat of white paint and had new carpet, but the kitchen and bathrooms were in need of a little cleanup. the house as a whole was in good shape, it just felt a little rough around the edges. i couldn't quite put my finger on it, but then in talking with the realtor he told us that it had been a rental property since it was built. that's when it clicked: it felt like student housing. not much had changed since it was built, and it had had just basic upkeep on it, but nobody really trying to decorate the house, or make it into a "home". Through conversation with the realtor and the people next door we found out the reason for the declining price: apparently the home had been vacant for some time because it was never really cleaned up after the last tennant left. They had originally overpriced the house and left it dirty, so nobody was interested. they had dropped the price several times, but then ultimately they decided to do something about it and came through and cleaned out the house, then painted and added the new carpets. they then dropped the price one final time to the point where it caught our attention. it made sense, because at the asking price when we saw it, it was a good deal, but we would likely have walked right back out if it was dirty and didn't have the new carpets/paint.

the house seemed to be in good shape and we thought that a little TLC could turn it around. we liked it from the start, but thought it was strange that we were seriously considering placing an offer on the first house that we went into. we decided to go home and talk it over some more. after a while of talking it over we decided to put in an offer slightly below the asking price. we figured that they'd dropped the price a few times, so they might accept it, but at the same time we didn't want to go too low since we knew it was a good deal even at the asking price. when we put in the offer there weren't any others, so we thought we were in good shape as we'd at least be the first offer, and hopefully the only one.

the agent then started trying to contact the sellers. he said that they the sort of people who regularly travelled all over the world, so he wasn't sure how long it'd take to contact them, but he had several numbers to try, and failing that he could contact their power of attorney and have them make a decision on the offers. a few hours passed and we got a call back from the agent to let us know that there was another offer coming in, but he didn't know how it compared with ours and he still hadn't been able to contact the sellers. he said that he'd talk to us in the morning with the details and let us know when he'd talked to the seller.

when i talked to him in the morning he was still trying to contact the sellers, but if he hadn't talked to them by noon he was going to go with the PoA. we also were told that there was a third offer on the house. the good news was that #3 was significantly lower than our offer, but the bad news was that offer #2 was both better than ours, didn't have any conditions on it (we had a condition to get final funding approval and one for a home inspection), and had a slightly shorter closing date (they had asked for 30 days, but since it was mid-month we went for the 1st of the month, working out to about 50 days). the closing date wasn't much of a concern for us as we'd already talked about moving that if they wanted to, so we went for exactly 30 days from the offer date. i quickly called our mortgage person to find out what we'd need to do in order to put in a firm offer (removing the funding condition), then got that paperwork in motion. that left inspection condition. we'd seen the house, and hadn't seen any signs of problems. with the unfinished basement we could see that the foundation was sound and there weren't any signs of trouble there either. we talked it over some more and decided to go ahead and remove the inspection condition too. we knew that if there was anything major wrong with it that the seller has to disclose it, so we thought this wasn't a big concern. that only left the issue of the actual offer. the agent couldn't tell us what the value of the other offer was, but he said that once we removed the two conditions the two offers were fairly close. we figured that if the other offer was right around the asking price that we could definitely match this, and exceed it a little, but if we only exceeded it by a little then the other person might come back with their own counter offer. we decided that if we were going to make another offer it should be an "all or nothing" offer, putting everything on the table, so we decided to go with $5000 over the asking price, hoping that the other person wouldn't be willing to make that much of a jump in their offer. we knew that the house was a good deal, even at this price, so we felt comfortable with it, and we knew that if we didn't get it that we'd have done all we could to get it.

after getting the last of the paperwork together and the revised offer signed, we then waited anxiously for any news. it seemed that the minutes crawled by that afternoon, but finally i got the call from the agent: our offer was accepted and the house was ours! woohoo! we were instantly very excited about the house, but also a bit terrified about the idea of spending that much money on something. we kind of bounced back and forth between those two extremes for a while until eventually we were just excited about it. at the same time came the "holy crap, we take posession in 30 days!" realization. also, our original plan had been to hire movers to pack and move us (since we had this for the move from minnesota back to ontario and loved it), but with the final "all or nothing" offer we'd spent our moving money and signed ourselves up for a whirlwind of packing and moving fun.

all of our free time over the next month was spent on packing, planning for the new house, and prepping for the move. we decided right away that we'd be painting everything to brighten up the stark white that covered the whole house. we took advantage of jenn's mom's employee discount at Rona and bought all our paint there. we were also able to borrow most of the painting supplies from her parents, which meant we didn't have to spend much on that stuff. we planned that we'd spend most of the first two weeks painting and doing other work around the house, then move in and have a week or so to get settled in.

so july was pretty much the mad packing blitz, then when we took posession on august 8th we brought in all of the paint and supplies and started to prep. jenn's parents came up on the 10th and spent a few days with us painting. we decided pretty quickly that the stucco ceilings, while a pain to work on, would need to be painted. jenn's dad was a real trooper and did them all, but it still sucked and we all felt for him doing it. we did find out the key info for painting stucco: 1) get the right roller for the job. the best one is a big, fat foam roller that has slits gong through it. This lets it flex and ride over the stucco much better than standard rollers. 2) you can't keep going over stucco like you can a wall, otherwise the stucco gets too wet and starts to fall off. The only thing you can do is make a single pass, and if it's not completely covered you do another coat once it dries.

after a couple days off her parents were back to help finish off the painting while jenn and i were back to work leading up to moving day. we left the stairway, hall, and front foyer unpainted, figuring that there was a strong chance of someone banging a wall during the move and we didn't want to be overly paranoid about it. plus we figured that there wouldn't be any furniture in those locations anyway, so it'd be easy to paint after the move.

The move went very smootly. i picked up the truck shortly after the shop opened and we started loading up. we had great friends helping us out: jenn had a group helping with packing up the last of the kitchen and then unpacking at the new house, and i had the guys taking care of loading and unloading the truck. by early afternoon the move was done and we were surrounded by boxes. there was a bit of stuff left at the old apartment, but it was just small stuff that we could take care of in a few trips in the car.

we both had the week following the move off from work, and we were busy the whole time with finishing the painting and getting the house unpacked and setup. by the time the dust settled we'd managed to paint the entire house (including ceilings) in a total of 1 week, and had the house pretty much totally unpacked in the same amount of time. the half bath on the mail floor had new lights, mirror, sink, and vanity. the full bath upstairs had a new medicine cabinet, mirror, and lighting. there was a new fridge in the kitchen and new paint and hardware on the cabinets. the house was ours and we loved it.

the next couple months felt like we were still always busy with either working in the yard or inside the house, but it was good. it's rewarding when you're working on your own place and it doesn't really feel like work. well, at least not all the time :)

along with getting settled in the house the second half of the year had lots of other great stuff. we celebrated jenn's 28th birthday before the move, and i got to celebrate my 31st in the new house. we saw Corteo, the latest show from Cirque Du Soleil. we saw a really great show from the foo fighters (setlist below)

Foo Fighters @ Molson Amphitheater - August 13, 2005

in your honor
all my life
times like these
my hero
best of you
up in arms
learning to fly
last song
the one
stacked actors
tired of you
everlong
(intro to aint talkin bout love)
doa
this is a call
breakout

cold day in the sun
end over end
monkey wrench


i did a bunch of brewing (sept, oct, and nov at the new house, and oct at tim's). we even managed to relax a little in front of a nice big fire in the fireplace. we hosted our first new years eve party, and had a great time doing it.

all in all, it's been a darn good year. hopefully 2006 will be at least as exciting!

January 18, 2005

MMIV - life

ah 2004, where did it go?

It seems like I just blinked and it was the beginning of march and I was getting that email from IBM asking about my availability for a phone interview. That started the great rollercoaster that brings me to where I am today. I covered the interviewing process in other entries. The process of finding an apartment and moving was a long and painful process that I'd planned to write a lengthy entry on and have a good rant about my experience with Dada Destinations. I never seemed to find the time to write that entry, and at this point I'm over it. I was very unhappy with Dada. They were pretty much useless. The best thing they did was push me off on someone else. At the time this was inconvenient as they screwed up my house hunting trip by forcing me to search on different days (AFTER I had bought my plane tickets and travelled to Toronto). However, I could not have been happier with the service I got from Gordon Chan and Oksana Krupa at Prudential Elite Realty TW. Gordon and Oksana were only helping us to find an apartment (and thus getting a very small commission of a half months rent), but they dedicated so much time to this that I can't recommend them strongly enough. They rock.

Once we'd found a place to live, the rest was a bit of a whirlwind. The move itself went GREAT. There were three companies that did quotes for our move (including packing up our apartment, transporting it from MN to Toronto, and unpacking it all at the new location), and it was awarded to Taylor Moving and Storage. When we were getting the quotes we were told things like "7-21 days" at worst and "8-10 days" at best for travel time between MN and TO, but when I talked to Taylor they said they were sending a truck down to pack us up and bring everything up themselves, so the travel time would be 2 days. The guys had it a bit rough with the long carry between our apartment and the truck when they loaded up, but I guess that Karma was on their side because they were able to back right up to the patio door at our new place and go straight from the truck to our living room. That was July 2nd.

A few days later I reported for my first day of orientation. The first week was general orientation at the main office, then a partial day at the software lab. Thats when the real fun started. I joined the Backup and Recovery team and jumped into code almost right away. Since then it's been a bit of a blur. Lots of interesting things to learn, and fun projects to work on. My team is small (4 full time staff, currently one student) and easy to get along with. I'm enjoying it a lot.

Aside from work, life has been great. It's good to be back in Canada, and we're happy to be back close to friends and family. I've seen a bunch of concerts (The Cure in august, Matthew Good and Social Distortion in October, Skinny Puppy and The Pixies in November), a couple of basketball games (Toronto Raptors vs. Minnesota Timberwolves in December, Toronto Raptors vs. Sacramento Kings in January), and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra performing the Lord of the Rings Symphony. We love our apartment in Richmond Hill and are very happy here. We've had lots of guests dropping in, including syx and heather at the end of july, Jenn's friend Julie from Calgary a few times, my aunt Pam and her partner Nat a couple of times, and Jenn's family a bunch of times. We hosted Thanksgiving dinner for the first time which was great, and quietly celebrated our first anniversary after everyone left town. I celebrated my 30th birthday labour day weekend and had a bunch of people over for a BBQ and some beer. The theme of the evening was to celebrate all the great beer being brewed in the area, and we had a fine assortment to choose from as everyone brought their favorites.

I've also started brewing beer again. Back during my undergrad I was brewing beer with my friends Jason Cross and Jason Wintermute. In September we setup shop at my friend Rob LeGood's place in Waterloo and officially became the Biergotter Homebrew Club. We brewed 4 batches in September and another 6 in November. Unfortunately, it seems like the water in Waterloo isn't useable for brewing. Every batch we've made has had a distinct "metallic" or "chemically" smell and taste. We're working to find out if there's anything we can do to resolve this, and the fine folks at the Region of Waterloo Water Services have even volunteered to check out samples of 4 recent batches of beer and a tap water sample to see if they can identify anything there. We figured at best we'd be getting a copy of a recent water analysis for the region, so we're quite happy with how much help they've offered. We're pretty confident that the issue is the water, as there was no other common element between all 10 batches. There have been many different styles, different strains of yeast, different specialty grains, and even things like our pale malt have come from different suppliers in different cities. We've done brewing in different cities in the past and never had any problem like this. We're planning on trying a test batch using bottled water, so hopefully we'll get this sorted out soon.

Well, I think that wraps up the major events of 2004. Stay tuned for more updates in 2005.

April 26, 2004

it's official - life - work

well, it's now official. i just called IBM and told them that i was accepting the offer and that i'd be sending the written copies of everything out to them via purolator. i faxed everything off to the relocation people to get that process started too. we're moving to markham!

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