Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Washington Migration

Our new state flag!

 There's a lot to unpack here, but let me not bury the headline...

Tanya and Rusty Move from Texas to Washington!

Yes, you read that right. We finally vacated our north Texas home and bought a one-way ticket to Washington state! We are officially homeless!

Well... that's not completely accurate. I should break down the timeline a little.

November, 2021

By this point, we'd been telling the boys for about a year that we were planning to sell the house and move to Washington by summer of 2022. By Thanksgiving of 2021, the boys started thinking about figuring out living arrangements that did not include being at our house as permanent residents.

December, 2021

The boys had been messing around trying to figure out living arrangements independently. They finally discovered via the power of verbal communication (facilitated by me) that they were actually better off combining their forces (and money) to get a two bedroom together. They found a place relatively close to both Gabriel's school and Garrett's prospective employer, and we helped them get everything in order such that they signed the lease. Their move-in was scheduled for February 2022.

February, 2022

Good times were had by all! Well, almost...

We helped the boys pack up their stuff and move it into their new apartment. That place is NICE. The complex is only a couple of years old, and the apartment suits their needs VERY well. All of a sudden, I realized they are fully-functioning and (mostly) independent adults. The upstairs of our house was 3/4 empty. This felt like progress.

March, 2022

We started getting the house sell-ready. This mainly entailed going through nooks and/or crannies every weekend and getting rid of stuff that we knew we wouldn't be moving. There were lots of nooks and crannies, and lots of stuff given away. I was slightly disheartened by the amount of stuff that still remained. Packing would be a daunting task. Then there was the cleaning and staging... it was work, but in the end, definitely paid off (see below).

We also contacted a realtor. Luckily, Tanya had the foresight to save the flyer from the agency that sold the last house in our neighborhood. They were VERY responsive, informative, and loved our house. We decided to list the house for sale during the last weekend of March. We wound up with NINE offers, and accepted what we considered the best one. Closing would be around the end of April, and we would have a lease-back until the end of May.

April, 2022

We did all of the things that needed to be done for the house, which wasn't much. Inspections went smoothly, and all was moving right along...

...until the squirrels moved into the attic.
Of all the houses in the neighborhood... why'd it have to be ours?

Yes, squirrels chewed through the base of one of the highest eaves and took up residence. That was unfortunate, but we managed to get it dealt with just before the closing occurred.  Closing went off without a hitch, and we actually got to meet the new owners. They're VERY nice, and were extremely excited to be the new owners of the house. We were very happy for them, and knew the house would be in good hands.

But the work continued: we were packing and preparing for the move. We lined up PODs, a car transport service, an Airbnb rental for a month in order to let us find a rental in one of the two main areas we were looking, and bought plane tickets.

One of two!

The first POD showed up, and we took a week to load it. The boys helped on the first weekend, and we were glad they were there. Garrett's spacial awareness helped us with a particularly tricky couch arrangement. :)

Beginning of May, 2022

The first POD was returned to storage, and the second POD showed up. We took the weekend to load it while Mary, Marco, and Tanya came and claimed the last of the things they wanted which we weren't planning to move. The house was empty! I'd forgotten how echo-y that place is when there's nothing in it. We moved into a hotel for a couple of days while we had the last house bits done (cleaning, mainly) and waited for the car to get picked up for transport.

The transport arrived, and it was... interesting. Nothing went quite as planned. They were late, then they were rushed when they were trying to get our car on the transport. We finally put our foot down and forced them to send us a copy of the bill of lading they'd just signed (they claimed the broker would be sending it to us, but the broker said to get it from the driver). The car got loaded and sent off. The last thing to do was for us to get on a plane and leave Texas!

May 12 - 17, 2022

This one deserves a bit more attention.

Thursday, May 12

We arrived after an uneventful plane ride. When we left Texas, it was in the 90s and sunny. Landing, it was in the 50s and raining. This felt like progress. We got our rental car without issue and made it to our Airbnb with plenty of time to prepare for the next day's (Friday the 13th) appointments. We had already made a handful of appointments to view rental properties in the Lynwood/Everett/Lake Stevens area. We also tried to make more appointments for Saturday the 14th in the Puyallup/Bonney Lake area, but hadn't gotten many responses as of Thursday night.

(For those of you unfamiliar with the geography: Everett is directly north of Redmond, which is east-northeast of Seattle. Puyallup (pronounced pew-AL-up) is directly south of Seattle.)

Geography is not my strongest subject...

Friday, May 13, 2022

This wasn't one of the listings we looked at, but it wasn't out of the question either...

We spent the day looking at several properties. The second one we looked at was in Lake Stevens, and just seemed... perfect. The approach to Lake Stevens was picturesque, and the neighborhood is SO quiet. We met the landlords there and had a great talk with them. It turns out they spent some time in Texas, so they knew where we were coming from. After we got back to the Airbnb from that appointment, we submitted the application. Later that evening, they accepted! By the end of our first real day in Washington, we'd landed a rental!

Later that night, the car transport folks said they were going to be in Seattle. They were about a day earlier than expected, which surprised us. They must've driven straight through. We got the car (which was in fine shape), and planned to return our rental car to the airport several days early.

Saturday, May 14, 2022

We wound up cancelling our rental viewings in Puyallup the evening prior, since we'd signed the contract on the rental. However, we knew we wanted to check out the area regardless, and we had to return the rental car to the airport. So, we got up early-ish the morning of Saturday the 14th, dropped the rental at SEATAc, and drove on down to Bonney Lake (just to the east of Puyallup). We were looking at a new planned community area called Tehaleh (pronounced tuh-HALL-ee, just outside of Bonney Lake), mostly on a lark, since we knew there was no way we would be able to find anything interesting.

For those of you not familiar with the device, that last sentence is called "foreshadowing."

Neither Tanya nor I remember how we stumbled across MainVue Homes, but we wound up at the model home and were warmly greeted by the broker. We walked through the Nova model, which was being built in the community with a slightly different fit and finish (known as the Nolina). This link is the virtual tour, and if you're interested, click it! For everyone else, I'll include a couple of shots...
Kitchen with outdoor living area

Living and dining room

When Tanya and I bought our first house in Carrollton, we visited the community on a lark, not really thinking we'd find anything we liked or that was within our price range. We were wrong then, as we found a house that we immediately fell in love with. That approach is apparently our pattern, as we left the MainVue model and really couldn't stop thinking about how it was about the price we were planning on paying and was a floor plan that we adored (with the exception of all bedrooms being on the second floor, which is apparently a thing). We waited as long as we could (which was about an hour), then called the broker and asked her what the process for moving forward entailed. She told us it was pretty simple, but involved a component that we'd completely forgotten about: the pre-qualification letter. There were, of course, other folks interested in the lot we wanted, so time was suddenly of the essence. And it was Saturday afternoon. What were we to do?

Tomo to the rescue!

Tomo is an online mortgage company that specializes in making the mortgage process as pleasant as possible for the consumer. We also happen to have a good friend that works there. After chatting with her briefly, we went through their web application forms, uploaded all of the necessary documentation, and by Sunday morning, had a pre-qualification letter!

Sunday, May 15, 2022

Pre-qualification letter in hand, we drove back out to Bonney Lake and filled out the offer with the broker. We also spent time with the team going over in more detail what was included in the house by default, which as it turns out, is a lot. The cost/value ratio is buyer-favorable, in our opinion. We drove back to Everett for a dinner by the ocean, knowing we'd have to wait a day or two to hear back from the builder.

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

On our way to Leavenworth, we received a phone call from the broker. The builder had accepted our offer! We were going to be homeowners again!

All of that in our first week in Washington. Feels like a pretty productive few days!

So... when I started this post saying that we were homeless, that much was VERY true for a handful of days. Practically speaking, though... are those days really even worth counting?

Saturday, January 29, 2022

My Year in Music (2021 Edition)

2021 Apple Music Replay
I use Apple Music, not Spotify. Hours instead of minutes, apparently...

At the beginning of 2021, I was presented with a challenge by the Internet: listen to an album from the 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die list daily throughout the year. A handy tool (and the sponsorship of the presentation ad I saw) had already been prepared for me: https://1001albumsgenerator.com/. Not knowing what I was getting myself into, I gladly clicked the link and signed up. I wound up listening to 209 different albums of a possible 238 (don't quote me on that last number, but it's close enough).

This post is a quick summary of the results of my listening year.

Top 5

There were some truly great albums in the set I listened to this year. (There were also some real stinkers, but I won't elaborate on them.) I rated 22 of them at 5 stars (the highest rating). I've narrowed that list down to the five I just couldn't do without. Here they are, in no particular order.  

Note that the links are to Apple Music where available. If that's not your service of choice, feel free to search for the album/artist in your preferred listening media.

Lady Soul, by Aretha Franklin. This album is objectively fantastic, even if you're not into Soul or R&B. There's a reason that Aretha Franklin is called the Queen of Soul, and it is on ready display on every track of this record. The fact that this was her TWELFTH studio album makes the level of greatness here that much more astounding.

A Love Supreme, by John Coltrane. My review at the time was "Jazz. Raw, unapologetic, beautiful, soulful, all of those other words that have certainly been said about it over the years, and more. This album is great, and definitely deserves a high spot on this list." This, like Lady Soul, is an album that you can use as an introduction to the genre if you're not familiar with it. 

Electric Ladyland, by the Jimi Hendrix Experience. This was the last studio album that Hendrix recorded, I think, and it's a brilliant one. It was also long, especially for its time, at 73 minutes. The style is quite varied, and explores Hendrix's myriad interests. 

The Gershwin Songbook, by Ella Fitzgerald. I was less than one track into this 59 track album when I realized it was going to be spectacular. This one was the longest I listened to, clocking in at 3 hours, 14 minutes. It's also one of the older albums on my list, being recorded in 1959. This album is special in lots of ways, the least of which is that if you aren't familiar with either Ella Fitzgerald or the Gershwins, you get a great introduction.

The Genius of Ray Charles, by Ray Charles. This album takes its time -- it's not in a rush to overwhelm you with its greatness. He recorded this album with a Big Band as the main orchestration, which was a step out for him, and gives it a swing feel. I'm not sure if every Ray Charles fan loves this album, but I certainly do!

Sentimental Winner

There were shockingly few albums on the list that I'd actually listened to all the way through, much less owned. One, however, got a 5-star rating before I even pressed "Play."

Hysteria, by Def Leppard. I cannot count the number of times I've listened to this album. This used to be the default album I listened to while lifting weights. Or doing housework. Or driving to the grocery store. I had it on cassette and wore it out. I bought a CD version, which I'm pretty sure I still have. This album exemplifies all that was great about 80s hair metal bands. SO GREAT I CAN'T DESCRIBE IT ADEQUATELY! You have to experience it from my context to get it, I suspect, but you should give it a try in any case.


The other metrics are somewhat interesting. Unfortunately, the album generation website doesn't export a lot of information beyond the album title, artist, your rating, review, and a global rating. As such, actual breakdowns by genres, decades, etc. are missing, but I'll do my best to fill in a couple of blanks at least.

First up: Album Ratings!

Bell curve, anyone?

And now, with actual values!

The distribution of ratings was really well normalized. I suppose that shouldn't have surprised me, since that's how distributions tend to work, but I really did think that I rated more "Good" than "Bad", and not nearly so many in the middle. As it turns out, my median score was a 3, and my mean score was 3.06.

Next, here are the few summarized metrics generated by the site.

Why wouldn't you export the year and genres for me?

The first two metrics I've already mentioned. The other three, though, came as surprises to me. I'll state now that I'm not sure how the site determined the rankings, but I suspect that there's some kind of weighting based on my ranking, and then some division based on the total number of albums I listened to. With that in mind:
  • My favorite decade is the 1950s. This seems plausible, given I gave Ella Fitzgerald and Ray Charles 5 stars for their albums, each released in 1959. It's also possible that, somehow, my list had an overabundance of albums from that decade in general, so regardless of ratings it would be disproportionately represented. /shrug
  • My favorite genres are World, Jazz, and Blues. The second and third I acknowledge as being two of my favorites, but World is a surprise. Wikipedia says that World Music includes "styles of music from non-Western countries, including quasi-traditional, intercultural, and traditional music." Also, "music that does not follow 'North American or British pop and folk traditions' was given the term 'world music' by music industries in Europe and North America." Alright, given that broad brush, I can understand that rating better. There were lots of albums on the list that weren't traditional North American or British pop or folk, so that population was probably pretty dense.
  • My least favorite genre is Grunge?! This also surprised me until I thought about the fact that most of the pure Grunge albums that I listened to from the list were Pearl Jam and Nirvana, neither of which ever really floated my boat (Stone Temple Pilots FTW!). I suppose I was a non-traditional Grunge fan in that way, so this rating also seem plausible.

Finally, Apple Music told me that I listened to what seemed to me to be an unusually large number of artists this year, including the ~200 from the album generator list.

Is... that a real number?

I'm not exactly sure how Apple determines "distinct artists." 1,311 really does seem high. On the other hand, I'm reminded that Tanya and I tend to use genre playlists quite a bit in the evening or on the rare occasions we have people over (thanks pandemic!), so it's entirely possible that number is spot on. For the record, those kinds of lists vary in the quality of their curation, but stuff that comes out of Apple itself tends to be pretty good. Also, I don't know if this metric is one that Spotify surfaces, but it was an interesting one for me. I listened to three distinct artists everyday on average. Neat!

Final Thoughts

Apple Music is fantastic. Our service of choice is typically Apple Music (hence my usage of their data). Their library is really wide; I only recall struggling to find one or two albums there. We have Music as one of the services selected in our Apple One subscription, which has served us really well. We actively use 5 services (Fitness, TV, News, iCloud, and Music), so the cost was worth it compared to a family plan from other music services. Note that I am NOT shilling for Apple here, but if you find you use two or three of those services anyway, it might be worth getting the larger subscription.

Learning algorithms are only as good as their input. I neglected to actually rate any of the albums I listened to in my streaming service of choice. As a result, the suggestions I now get are... well, all over the place. While variety is the spice of life, if you actually do want your streaming service to suggest things you might actually like, you need to let it know the kinds of things you like. Oops. :-)

Listen on repeat? Probably not. This is likely to be the only year I participate in this album generator exercise. It was experimental to begin with and, while I'm glad I did it, I didn't enjoy it so much that I feel compelled to complete the top 1000 albums play through. Then again... it surfaced some stuff that I absolutely adore, so never say never...

Wanna see the goods? If you're really interested in the full history of my trip, I think it's publicly accessible here: https://1001albumsgenerator.com/mysocialalert. If that link doesn't work for you, please let me know. Note that I started this journey alone, but at one point some of my coworkers caught wind of it and thought they might accompany me. A few of them did for a step or two, but ultimately this was a trek of 1000* steps primarily done solo. (queue Boulevard of Broken Dreams)

I hope you've enjoyed this summary. If you're inspired to take a similar journey, I'd be interested in knowing! Drop me a line if you're so inclined...

ADDENDUM: I wish I could allow commenting, but unfortunately the last time they were public, I received an inordinate amount of spam. If you need to get hold of me, you can email me at rusty ayat rustybentley diggity-dot com. :-)

Sunday, January 9, 2022

My Year In Books (2021 Edition)


my year in books 2021
That's a large graphic

Apparently I didn't find the time/energy to post anything to this blog last year except the book review. That's a shame, because last year was actually full of a lot of really interesting and eventful stuff. Maybe I'll get back to it at some point, but I think I'd rather look forward in general. Having said that, let's IMMEDIATELY disobey that directive and look at how last year went in books!

I deliberately set NO GOAL for reading this year. In fact, I didn't formally participate in the Goodreads Reading Challenge, because I didn't want that to inform any of my leisure actions. As it turns out, I'm very goal-oriented; once I've got the task in mind, I'm pretty irritable of anything that distracts from it until it's accomplished.

Despite not having a set goal, I read a respectable 29 books this year, with a total of approximately 10,400 pages. This was down from last year's totals of 40 and 12,800 respectively.

Top 5

Let's start with the five best books in the list. For reference, 11 of the 29 books I read got a 5-star rating this year, so the following list isn't comprehensive of the great content I consumed. I didn't review any of these on Goodreads, because other folks managed that more eloquently that I would have done.

The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story, by Nikole Hannah-Jones
The version of American history I was taught in high school in small town Texas was woefully narrowly-scoped. As it turns out, the same is true of my parents as well, as my mother (one of the smartest people I know) and I were completely unaware of things such as the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921. (Note: I first learned of the massacre via the excellent HBO series "Watchmen", and referenced again in "Lovecraft Country".) If you grew up in a privileged bubble similar to mine, quite a bit of the content surfaced here will be surprising. Everyone should read this, and it should be taught in schools.

My heart grew at least two sizes when I met my spouse. One spot in there is now reserved for Russian literature; I was never really exposed to it outside of "War and Peace." This book gives the reader a fantastic glimpse of some of the genius that's hidden in a dramatically different culture from the one I grew up studying. I listened to this on Audible, and the translations of the short stories are read by the likes of Glenn Close, Phylicia Rashad, Nick Offerman, and Rainn Wilson among others, with the analysis read by the author. If you love literature, either consuming or producing it, and have wondered a little about why that is, you would do well to read this book.

Just Above My Head, by James Baldwin
There is a special pain that comes with being marginalized that, as you might've guessed from the first entry on this list, I've never really experienced. This book beautifully illustrates that pain as the main protagonist is black and gay in an era where neither were well accepted. This is a fictional account, but the trials and tribulations expressed inside are certainly inspired by real-life, personal events from the author. James Baldwin was a magnificent writer, and I'm once again amazed at the lack of exposure I've had to his work after studying American literature in high school. As with the first book on this list, everyone should read it, and it should be taught in schools.

A Perfect Spy, By John le Carré
John le CarrĂ© passed away in 2021. I was unfamiliar with his work, aside from "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy"; I'd seen the movie, but not read the book. Jeff VanderMeer recommended his work highly, so after a bit of research, I read this one. I wound up enjoying the book very much, although the author's treatment of women was something I had to fight through. If you've ever thought you'd be interested in reading a spy novel that's more than a 007-brute-force offering, you would be well served to have a look at this one or others by this author.

Dracula, by Bram Stoker
I'm slightly ashamed to admit that I'd never actually read Dracula prior to this year. In fact, the only classic horror I'd read cover-to-cover was "Frankenstein". The narrative is progressed as a series of journal entries by different protagonists, and I loved the distinctness of their voices. The most disappointing part of the novel was actually the climax: I found it extremely unsatisfying, given the characterizations offered at the beginning of the novel. With that said, the book is definitely worth 5 stars, and as with other entries on this list, everyone should read it. (Aside: if you have to choose between this one and Frankenstein, favor Frankenstein, but try to get them both in if possible...)

Facts and Figures

Now the part you're REALLY here for: the GRAPHICS! Or at least, some HTML TABLES! First off: the standard metrics are offered. Most notable is the dramatic increase in average book length. This might contribute to the smaller completed count as well.


Then comes the number of pages and books consumed per month.


As usual, I finished a few more books in the first two-thirds of the year compared to the end. What's slightly surprising is that I didn't finish any books in January. I suspect that's because "Rhythm of War" was very long, and I started it the first week of January. The end of the year still had plenty of pages read. This is, overall, a pretty steady pace for me, I think.

Next, the question of whether or not I've abandoned audiobooks is answered. Spoiler Alert! The answer is "no."

Pie chart. Remind me to do a blog post on baking at some point...

Another year where the number of books I read was higher than the number to which I listened. Only four physical books, but still a respectable number given our technological proliferations...

How about a breakdown by genre? 

Pie chart, or donut chart?

Sci-Fi/Fantasy squeaks out the win again, but there are several genres in here that could be classified as Sci-Fi/Fantasy as well (Horror and Graphic, mainly), so it wasn't quite as close as it appears. Still, plenty of diversity here, although I'm slightly surprised not to see any Poetry here. That's the first time in several years that it hasn't appeared on the list.

Other Notes

Book Club

The boys and I started doing a book club this year, and we made it through several titles, including:
We also started Dune, by Frank Herbert, but haven't finished it yet. The first two were aimed at "adulting," while the third is about helping the boys become better software developers. The fourth... well, that's just for fun. That, and with the movie releasing at the end of 2021, it seemed appropriate. :-)


Of the 29 books, there were 27 different authors. The only duplicates from this year's list were:
Both are pretty prolific authors and write stuff that's in the Sci-Fi/Fantasy genre in general. I recommend essentially everything of theirs that I've read.


My ratings breakdowns:


If you were wondering, the single 1-star rating is for The Dark Crystal, by A.C.H. Smith. It's one of the few for which I actually left a review. I'll quote it here.


This is the second or third time I've pick this book up and had to put it down. I was slightly less than halfway through this time when I punted. I'm not exactly sure I can pinpoint my challenges with the book. A large part of it must be the juxtaposition of it and the movie -- the movie being wonderfully dark and important in my memory, and the book clinically reciting the story to me. Combine that with the fact that I purchased the book via the Kindle store without paying close attention to the fact that the book was a .pdf, so I couldn't adjust the color, font, etc. In addition, the book would, on occasion, start losing half pages on the kindle app on iOS, forcing me to close and reopen the app. Unfortunately, I can't recommend it to other folks. If you have the inclination and opportunity, watch the movie instead.

On that cheery note, I'll wrap up the first of what I'm sure will be MANY blog entries this year. Or maybe the only one. I actually have other year-end stuff to write about, namely, the year in music. Maybe I'll manage to get that one done, if someone out there requests it... ;)