“Oh No They Didn’t!” – Part 2

This is the second and final post in the “Oh No They Didn’t” neighborhood gossip series. Be sure to read the initial post before reading this one as it introduces a couple main players.

A week before we officially took ownership, TB and I went to the house with the owner of the painting company we were using to decide on the color scheme and to get an official quote for the work that needed to be done. It was pack-and-move day for the previous owners, The Foleys, so they, their movers, our agent, our paint dude and we made our rounds throughout the home doing our best to keep out of each other’s way. The Foleys are really nice thirtysomethings who sold the home to move to Portland, Oregon for his job. That day they gave us an overview of the different systems within the home, told us a bit about the neighborhood & homeowners association and constantly reminded us just how great the location is and how happy we are going to be with our decision. They seemed eager to answer our questions and determined to be has helpful as they could — both parties had already signed the paperwork so the house was ours regardless. Mrs. Foley went to grab Jan (next door neighbor…did you read part 1?) so she could introduce us. It seems both Jan and Mrs. Foley are good friends.

Jan is another veritable spigot of information. After introductions she began offering all types of insights and I have consulted her a couple times since our initial meeting to get her advice. Despite being a relatively new mom, Jan seems upbeat, energetic and extremely generous with her time. To give you an idea of the type of person she is, she offered to let us use her wireless network until our cable modem is ready. One of the first insights she gave us was her dog, a boxer I’ll call Tulip, had a habit of “walking herself” which basically translates to “She doesn’t bite but you’ll probably find crap in your yard.” TB gave Jan the “Just make sure she doesn’t walk herself in our yard” look with one eyebrow raised. (If you haven’t learned reading my blog so far, TB doesn’t take any crap — literally or figuratively.)

Continue reading ““Oh No They Didn’t!” – Part 2″

Chem-Dry Carpet Cleaning

We had the carpet cleaned throughout our new home today. We investigated small, locally-owned outfits then considered the big boys like Stanley Steemer and Servicemaster. Michael, the agent who helped us buy the house, consulted several of his former clients for referrals and they each recommended Chem-Dry Carpet Cleaning.

Chem-Dry’s system is based on a cleansing process utilizing soda water and other non-soap agents. By using small amounts of carbonated water, Chem-Dry guarantees faster drying time and and a lower possibility of damage compared to the waterlogging effect of other cleaning methods. These things always seem like snake oil to me but there were all those satisfied customer referrals. What really pushed Chem-Dry to the top of the list was their website. I felt I had a better idea of what to expect than I did after perusing the Stanley Steemer and woefully dismal Servicemaster sites.

I called just under two weeks ago to schedule service. The technician, Sean, was punctual, professional and knowledgeable of his trade. The previous owners had a small child so there appeared to be marker and other set stains in a few areas that we weren’t sure would come out. Sean offered us no guarantees on the stains since he was not sure what caused them but he said he would do everything he could to remove them.

It took Sean about 2 hours to clean 1,300 square feet of carpet including the stairs. The carpet definitely appeared much brighter than before and all the stains were gone. The house did not have that wet carpet smell and the areas he cleaned first were nearly dry by the time I signed off on the invoice. ❗

TB and I are satisfied customers.

By the way, Chem-Dry accepts The MS Prime Card for a 30-40% discount. We also came across coupons in a couple of those mailbox bundles this past week.


“Oh No They Didn’t!” – Part 1

This post is the first in a series of two posts about some juicy neighborhood gossip and how I learned of it.

The 3 year-old home we just purchased is in a subdivision of about 20 homes. Our new neighbors seem to be a mix of retirees/empty-nesters, upwardly mobile thirtysomethings and generally successful business people. We haven’t even moved in yet and TB and I are already being caught up on juicy neighborhood gossip by our next-door neighbor, let’s call her Jan, and the Verizon technician who came out to connect our phone system, Anthony.

Jan is one of those upwardly mobile thirtysomethings whose husband has lived in Singapore for over a year while she has been stateside raising their child. Just weeks after their home was finished being built he was sent away on business and she and the baby went along. During that time they rented out their house but that turned out to be “a nightmare”. As a result, Jan returned with their daughter and now her husband visits about once per month.

Continue reading ““Oh No They Didn’t!” – Part 1″

Digital Photography Workshop (Class #4)

In the first half of tonight’s class we covered digital workflow &#8212 basically what digital photographers call the period that starts when one inserts the memory card containing their pictures in the computer and wonders, “What next?” The second half was dedicated to reviewing the shots each student took in last week’s Pike Place Market adventure.

In discussing digital workflow, the instructor did a good job keeping his foot out of his mouth with the exception of one lowlight. In discussing Photoshop’s 16 bits/channel mode vs. 8 bits/channel mode he once again illustrated his technical shortcomings by proclaiming, “16 bit images contain exactly twice the number of colors as 8 bit images.” (FACT)

Thankfully, the workflow portion of the class was a relatively short jaunt through the cumbersome image handling functionality built into Windows peppered with gratuitous plugs for standalone, dedicated workflow programs which cost more than most people pay for Windows. Digital workflow is such a personal thing (kinda like grooming, in my opinion) so there is no silver bullet solution that works best for everyone. Sadly, I did not really learn much from that portion of the class.

The highlight, at least for me, was the second half of class which began at the halfway point of the three-hour session following a 15-minute break. It was time for us to present the photos we had taken during the class field trip to Pike Place Market. I included six representative samples of my pictures in an earlier post though I took 24 to share with the class.

The instructor said he would project our pictures onto the wall and have us talk about each shot (what we were attempting to capture, what steps we took to capture it, etc.). He and the other students would then critique our work. He asked for a volunteer to go first. Only four of us had actually participated in last week’s trip and that same four were in attendance this evening. Oddly, the other three students indicated they had no desire to go first and I really did not care so I volunteered. That turned out very bad for them.

The very first of my photos was the black-and-white image of Pike Place Market. The instructor said he had seen that view of the market photographed hundreds of times but never in black-and-white. He went on to shower the picture with praise and gave me high marks for trying something different and succeeding. He was really impressed with the composition and my decision to go black-and-white which helps draw attention to the reflection off the damp (this is Seattle) pavement. The other students said, “Wow.” We went through each of my remaining photos spending at least a minute on each one. I received lots of praise for my work and some helpful criticisms. After we finished discussing my last photo the instructor began to applaud. The other students begrudgingly joined in. The bar had been set.

Realizing the inevitable, the other students hurriedly asked to go next. In retrospect, this was probably them hoping their work would quickly fade from memory as the class proceeded. The good news is each of the other students had one or two really nice shots and there was one other “wow” in the bunch. The bad news is each brought two to four times the number of images as I. The worst news is we spent less time reviewing their images collectively as we did mine and there was no more applause from the instructor. One of the other students conceded, “Keith made us look bad.” :crying:

Initially I was delighted my images were so well received but I neither bask in the misery of others nor relish being teacher’s pet so the entire experience was bittersweet and awkward. There is only one session remaining which is scheduled for the week after Thanksgiving so the other students won’t have to put up with me much longer.


Buying a Mattress for Dummies

Buying a mattress is as frustrating an experience as people say. I did not want to believe it since I figured the number of mattress outlets in the area that incessantly advertise their “low low prices” bodes well for any prospective buyer. While that is still largely true, my nouveau mattress buying experience tells me one must be very patient, very meticulous and willing to negotiate to get a good mattress at a fair price.

I have never purchased a mattress before. TB bought our current bed shortly after she left college and it has held up reasonably well over the years. We finally decided to move from a queen to a king as we start having old people muscle and joint issues and could use the extra space.

Being the decisive, efficient engineer I laid the ground rules early expressing my desire to find a mattress quickly and to avoid dillydallying and waffling at all costs. I was spectacularly unsuccessful. TB and I visited five different establishments over a two week period in our quest to find the perfect mattress. We visited a few of the five multiple times. We tested so many mattresses, lying down, tossing about then bouncing up became part of my cardio routine.

The salespeople were helpful and most did a good job staying out of our way. The exception was the guy at Sleep Country who was nowhere to be found until we had been in the store for 3 minutes (odd because he was the only one working) but followed us around expounding the technical details about the manufacturing of each bed. When he started talking about Tibetan mountain goat wool and Peruvian alpaca hooves, I gave him the “stop playin'” look and made a beeline for the exit.

Including travel I estimate we spent six hours on the fact-finding component of our mission before narrowing our options down to a particular make & style of mattress (Sealy Eurotop). As we entered the critical value/price stage we limited our choices between a well-established retail furniture store that we had previous history with and one of the maverick, underdog outlets that would be more open to cutting a deal.

We started with the The Macy’s Furniture Store which had 6 professionally-attired salespeople all working the mattress department practically tripping over each other to earn the commission. The saleswoman who assisted us seemed very knowledgeable with sound advice. The mattress we really wanted was on sale but the “low low price” was still several hundred dollars more than we wanted to spend. I coaxed TB into taking the lead on the negotiations. The negotiations turned out to be surprisingly short. After TB indicated we were interested in purchasing the mattress, the saleswoman immediately started trying to upsell us on the warranty ($100+). We had not even decided whether we were buying the mattress yet and she was already trying to line her pockets with doodads at our expense. TB dexterously indicated we wanted to pay a specific amount then we were basically told Macy’s does not discount their prices — presumably everyone pays the same price. Fair enough. No deal. Not willing to lose a potential sale, the saleswoman asked us to consider purchasing a lesser model that was closer to the price we had established. We said thanks but no and left.

We then went to King’s Mattress. This store had two guys in polo shirts sitting at a makeshift station littered with clipboards situated front-and-center. One was talking on his cell phone the other was chatting with a buddy. One of the guys recognized us from our previous visit so his eyes lit up as he told us, “Take your time and I’d be happy to assist you in anyway I can.” We did take our time to make sure the mattress we had previously selected was still on the top of our list and of the same caliber as the one at Macy’s. TB and I had previously discussed what we were willing to pay so everything was a go. TB indicated it was my turn to negotiate although she really did not have to negotiate during her turn. I waved the salesman over and pretty much told him we liked the mattress but wanted to know if the price was negotiable — I did not give him a price. He indicated it was and said he would see what he could do. He and the other salesman had a scripted dialog in front of us which included visual aids like last month’s sales prices. He then offered us the mattress just under the price we were willing to pay but we would have to pay for delivery. I did not want to rock the boat too much but paying for delivery is for suckers. I indicated the price was good but I did not want to pay for delivery. He hemmed and hawed as instructed in Section 5.A.V.iii of the employee manual and eventually agreed.

Obviously, since we got the mattress at the price we wanted (it came to 22% off) with free delivery with little effort we probably could have negotiated an even better deal (25-30%). But I do believe in karma and felt good about the purchase so we paid and left.

Since this was my first mattress buying experience I am still a novice. However, here are some things I observed/learned:

  1. No two stores in the same area will offer the same models. Do not waste your time looking for the exact same mattress across two stores.
  2. Take your time.
  3. Lift the mattress. Its weight tells a lot more about its construction than lying on it.
  4. Take off your jacket and lie on the mattress for at least 5 minutes.
  5. Negotiate the price. If they do not want to negotiate go somewhere that will. You will save money without sacrificing quality.
  6. Do not pay for delivery. Tell them Keith said it’s for suckers.