Vehicle Title and Registration

Now that we live in Washington, we’re dutifully trying to fulfil our legal obligation as residents. This includes registering our Fusion with the state. We have, however, a problem.

Flash back 3.5 years to when we moved to Colorado. When we moved Benjamin wasn’t working and hadn’t started school, so he was tasked with getting us situated. He was the one that did the research on what was required in CO to register the vehicle, gathering the documents required, and getting it done. At this time we were still paying on the loan on the car and thus the loan company had a lien on the vehicle. Everything went swimmingly.

Flash forward two years when we paid off the vehicle. The loan company sent us our title — a Texas title. This did not seem odd to me at all. Title != registration, right?

That brings us up to today when we’re trying to register the car in WA. According to the online docs, we have to bring in our title, other paperwork, and money and they issue us a WA state title for the vehicle. Umm… we have a TX title but I really think we’re suppose to have a CO title. Sure enough, according to the Denver website (registration is handled by the counties in Coloardo) “if there is a lien, the title will be mailed to the lienholder”. So I call the loan company (our credit union in Austin) and they don’t have any record of a CO title.

So I’m flummoxed. I think I’m suppose to have a CO title, not a TX title. I have what appears to be a perfectly valid TX title and, in theory, can use this to register the car in WA (what do they care about my little CO problem?). What I’m worried about is that this might create some confusion if we ever go to sell the vehicle.

So I guess from here I’ll call the Denver motor vehicle office and see if there was, in fact, a CO title issued for the vehicle. If there was, then I’ll figure out what hoops I have to jump through to get a new one issued and decide if all that effort is worth the perceived benefit.

From my CO/WA experience it appears that a vehicle’s registration and title are more closely linked that I thought.

DING! again

A month ago I mentioned about our first success with teaching Riley to ring a bell when he needs to go outside. Then we turned his (and our) world upside down in the move to Seattle.

This weekend, Riley started consistently ringing the bell every time he needs to go outside. He usually starts by whining at the door needing to go out at which point we watch him but don’t jump to the door. Then he looks at the bell, looks at us, looks at the bell, and then walks over and tries to hit it. I’d say 90% of the time he’s successful and is able to hit the bell right away. The other 10% he paws at it and misses the ringer. Either way it’s obvious what he’s trying to achieve. We reward him hitting the ringer by immediately dropping what we’re doing and taking him outside. If he doesn’t hit the ringer (or resorts to whining at the door) we usually take our time on letting him outside.

Thankfully, he’s used the bathroom every time he’s rang the bell and we’ve taken him outside. I’m a little worried that he’ll figure out that just ringing the bell will get him outside, bathroom break or not. I’m hoping that our bright puppy isn’t quite that bright!

50% more property taxes!?

Yesterday I received the year-end escrow analysis for the rental property in Austin. They helpfully informed me that the monthly payment was going up 30%. Say what!? Digging deeper into the paperwork it appears that my total property taxes were listed as having gone up a total of 50%. That really didn’t seem right and I suspected a fubar at the mortgage company.

This morning I called the Williamson County Tax office and talked to a very helpful gentleman named Dale. I get the impression he is used to getting irate calls from people wanting to know why their taxes went up and I’m sure a call from me just wanting to validate my 2009 amount was refreshing. He emailed me a PDF of my tax statement. Sure enough, instead of the $4k listed as being owed to the Williamson County tax office, it was $1k.

Looking at the two tax lines on the escrow analysis from my mortgage company it appears that they had the RRISD taxes correct, but had RRISD+Williamson County for the Williamson County taxes. I pictured an absolute nightmare with the mortgage company to get this straightened out.

Instead, after futzing with the call tree I talked to a very helpful woman who appeared happy to take my word at what the county taxes should be. After she re-ran the escrow analysis the payment amount was back in line with what it should have been.

All in all a very simply problem to solve but it made for one really restless night’s sleep as I tried to imagine how property taxes had gone up 50% in an economy where the property values were falling.

New commute: 53x longer than before

Yes, it’s true. My new commute is 53x longer than it was before. Can you believe that!?

Perhaps it’s better if we put it in perspective a bit though. My old commute was about 30 feet bed-to-desk, including stairs.

My new commute is about 4 blocks, give or take. So while it really is 53x longer than it was before (new and improved: now with weather!) it really isn’t all that bad — even in the rain and snow :)

Everything but marriage

Two weeks ago before Benjamin’s trip to Kingsville for Uncle Sam’s funeral and my trip to Austin to move the family business to a new building, B and I got married. Well, as close as you can get to it in Washington state – which is pretty damn close. In fact, Washington state has Everything But Marriage-level domestic partnerships.

What did our ‘wedding’ entail? Walking a couple of blocks to the nearest Chase (where we bank), getting a piece of paper notarized, and mailing it into the State. When we got back, our certificates (one for each person) and domestic partnership cards (one for each person) were in our mailbox.

While better than what we had in Colorado, and way better than what we had in Texas, it’s still “everything but” marriage. Functionally, until the federal DOMA gets repealed it doesn’t really matter. In the meantime, we’ve got a bit more legal protection than we’ve had before.

First day at Isilon

My first day at Isilon went well. My manager, Ryan, was in an all-day manager’s meeting so Case met me at the front desk and directed me to my cube. Yes, his name is Case and he’s the Performance Guru I’ll be learning from. That should make things interesting!

Today was amazingly crazy, although it had nothing to do with Isilon or the first day on the job. Instead, it was all about Riley. This morning while I was getting ready he ate a used dryer sheet. Or at least I’m 98% certain he ate a used dryer sheet as I saw him chewing on something and the meager remains of a dryer sheet left behind. After that he spent about 5 minutes hacking. This was around 7:30 and I was suppose to go into the office at 9:30. The very short version of the story is that I dashed to take him to the vet over my lunch break to rush back to the office. Thus far he seems to be fine but we’re continuing to keep an eye on him.

Last day at IBM

Today was my last day at IBM. It’s been a wonderful 10.5 years and I’m looking forward to a new adventure.

After I sent my “So long, and thanks for all the fish” email to my coworkers (yes, it was actually titled that) I received many warm responses, some of which I wanted to jot down here:

Ahhhhh … my main go-to guy on performance .. gone .. ahhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!

[B]efore you get out the door please send me your thoughts regarding the reasons for your departure and what we might do better. Losing you is an expensive lesson but I want to be sure we learn from it.

I can’t tell you how sorry I was to see this note. You’ve been such a key part of getting TIM “operational” in so many environments, and contributed so much to the Performance Guide, redbooks, wikis, etc. [The] PoC would have been an absolute disaster without your involvement – I learned so much from that experience. [snip] Don’t know what development is going to do without you. I wish you all the best in your new job – I hope they know how lucky they are to have landed you!

Wow, its a big loss for the IBM and ITIM team… I’m sure your going to kick ass where ever you go, it was always great working with you.

[I] just want to say, it was great working with you the past years. I wish you the best in your new job. You are very talented and dedicated to doing great work, so I know you will do well where ever you go.

Wish me luck as I report in to the new job at 9:30a tomorrow!

Moving logistics and Send-off

Our original plan for the move from Denver to Seattle was to ship up a few boxes via UPS/FedEx and take the rest up in the car. We weren’t planning on taking much and our thought was that we’d have about 1.5 months before coming back to Denver at Christmas. If we decided we wanted bigger/more stuff we could always rent a Penske and drive it up at that time.

After some discussion it became apparent that there were more items we wanted to take on the initial load than we could cost-effectively ship. So we went route #2 and priced out a Penske. Ouch. Getting a bit creative I priced out the cost of renting an SUV and driving it up to Seattle. Including the cost of both the gas and the rental, the SUV approach was half the cost of a Penske/U-Haul. The SUV I reserved was a mid-level SUV along the lines of an Xterra. I opted to rent it from a Hertz Local Edition instead of the Hertz at the airport to avoid airport concession fees.

Fast forward to Thursday Nov 4th when I went to pick up the vehicle. The gentleman at the Hertz desk apologized that they didn’t have an SUV that matched what I selected, but they had upgraded me to what they did have available for no additional charge. Move over Xterra, hello Tahoe. And not just a standard-grade Tahoe. No, this puppy had leather seats, satellite radio, navigation system, and even iPod support. As a bonus, it automatically shut down 4 of the 8 cylinders if the vehicle detected they weren’t needed. Despite having the vehicle completely loaded (more on that later) we still achieved 20.5 MPG on the way up to Seattle. A far stretch from the 6-10 MPG estimated for the Penske. It felt like a boat to drive — particularly for someone use to a small car.

After picking up the luxury SUV I drove it back to the house for loading. Our very good friends Todd, Steven, Josh, John, and Meghann showed up a few minutes later and we had everything loaded in less than 30 minutes. It helped that Benjamin had expertly packed everything we were taking in small, puzzle-perfect sized boxes. That combined with Todd’s PhD-level packing skills made loading a breeze. [Aside: several people, completely independently, commented that we needed the Tetris music playing during the loading!] To top it off, Steve and Todd brought over chinese food for us (Taste of Asia – B’s absolute favorite).

After the gang left, B and I ate dinner and proceeded to pack those last few pesky bags and boxes you always have at the very end. During the course of the next couple of hours, Steve, Jason, Jonathan, Danny, Mark, Ken, Peter, Meghann (again!), and Laura came by to hug our necks and chipped in when we needed additional hands. It was a wonderful send-off and we really appreciate everyone for coming out, lending a hand, and wishing us well.

We were well prepared the next morning for our 6:15 planned departure … so well prepared that we were only 15 minutes past schedule.

Standards, Consistency, and Network cables

This weekend I’m in Austin moving my parent’s business to their brand new building. The building with an honest-to-goodness server closet and wiring installed professionally. Well, perhaps it was run professionally but the cables were punched down by idiots.

When making ethernet cables (what the layperson refers to as “network cables”) consistency is the most important thing. Pins 1 through 8 on one end must line up with pins 1 through 8 on the other end. To help with this consistency, the industry introduced two standards, T568A and T568B. Following either of these standards will guarantee you a working ethernet cable as long as both ends of the cable are the same.

To assist with this consistency, ethernet punch down blocks and ethernet wall keys contain handy color-coded labels — usually for both standards — on the blocks themselves. Any non-color-blind individual can brainlessly punch down ethernet cables. Which is why I assert that the cables in the new building were punched down by an idiot. The wall keys correctly follow the B standard helpfully labeled thereon. The punch blocks in the server room don’t follow the B standard. They also don’t follow the A standard. This is despite having both A and B standards conveniently labeled just below each punch-down segment. No, the cables in the punch-down blocks follow some hairbrained scheme of the punching madman and, since they don’t match the other ends, they’re worthless.

If this had happened to one or two, we’d sadly shake our heads and agree that punching down 48 of these would result in anyone getting the brown and orange swapped once or twice. But no, all 48 are consistently wrong. To top it off, the cables were supposedly tested by the installer. I can’t comment on if they were tested, but I can guarantee you that if they were tested, they were most certainly not tested with a successful result.

There’s something to stay about consistency — I just wish they had been consistent on both ends.

Arrival in Seattle: A night of drama

We arrived safe and sound and almost on time in Seattle on Saturday evening. It was raining really hard through Snoqualmie Pass all the way into Seattle. We parked the cars in the apartment parking garage, took Riley for a walk, and headed straight to dinner. After dinner the rain had turned into a sprinkle which was a much more pleasant experience to unload the vehicles.

We aired up the air mattress and laid down with hopes of getting a good night sleep. As a bonus we were gaining an hour with the time change to boot. Except it didn’t turn out quite as we’d hoped — instead it turned into a Night of Drama.

It all started when Riley woke us up around 2:30. I’m pretty certain this was 2:30 pre-DST change-over. To add insult to injury the air mattress was mostly deflated. I took Riley out to pee while B aired the air mattress back up.

Except we wake up a couple of hours later with the air mattress completely deflated. I’m guessing it’s about 3:30 post-PST by this time. We’ve gotten virtually no sleep and we’re laying on the floor. At this point I’m very loudly cussing out the sorry excuse for an air mattress. Benjamin is past exhausted and crying about just wanting to sleep. I called the Hyatt Place just down the street to see if we could get a room there. Oh sure, for $200. Come on – really? It’s almost morning already! So we resort to getting one of the bags of clothes we’d packed and throwing it on the ground under Benjamin’s side of the bed and I end up sleeping on the floor.

Needless to say the first night in the apartment wasn’t exactly a success. It was, however, great motivation to go out and purchase a real mattress (it was delivered on Monday) and an air mattress for Sunday night (and will be used later for guests).