a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: 2022

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Top Secret History Stunning Secrets Revealed

SUMMARY: USA vs USSR spying, and there I was...


Just a passing discussion about a piece of my -- and our -- history for you-all:

For my first REAL job, I had to apply for a government Secret Clearance. Why?? asked someone. What were you doing that required a Secret Clearance?

This stuff.
(Image from Wikimedia Commons)
I, er, fed programs punched in paper tape through an antique computer tape reader and changed reels on magnetic tape drives.

And also carried 40-lb boxes of green and white fan-fold sprocket-fed continuous-feed computer paper to each printer several times a shift. (The shop worked 24/7/365.)

Translation: Computer operator in a military satellite tracking station, Secret because NO ONE IN THE ENTIRE WORLD KNEW THAT WE WERE SPYING ON THE USSR WITH SATELLITES. 
Except, well, pretty much everyone.

Among the many many difficult questions to answer on the application was: Have you ever been out of the country? If so, where? Well, yes, I lived in New York state and you could, at that time, just drive or stroll casually between the U.S. and Canada. THEN the application wanted to know THE EXACT DATES I had done that.

"Probably several times between 19xx and 19xx." They weren't keen on that answer and I had to spend time with a supervisor coming up with credible answers.

We worked at what everyone knew as The Blue Cube, aka the Air Force Satellite Control Facility (SCF) or the Satellite Tracking Station (STC), later renamed (long after my time there) Onizuka Air Force Station. A yuuuuge structure that sat right alongside a freeway, in plain unobstructed sight, surrounded by six squillion satellite dishes.

Very secret.

Piece of history: One day they called in all the contractors and military people from all three shifts into a top-secret conference room in the building for an announcement from the President.  Pres. Carter announced that we had --ahem-- secretly been spying on the USSR with satellites.  We tried to look surprised but... um... [blink blink]...

Read about that stunning announcement here! https://nsarchive2.gwu.edu/NSAEBB/NSAEBB231/index.htm

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Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Paperwork! Money!

SUMMARY: Oooooooh closing is so close!

I can't believe it has been a month since I said I'd post something daily. Hahahaha actually I am not that surprised. I have been busy, but not significantly with the house buying process.

Now, badda-bing, badda-boom, THE NEXT BIG THING HAS HAPPENED.

The Title Company* left me voicemail late yesterday (Monday) afternoon while I was out touristing that the paperwork is ready for me to sign! And they calculated how much my total payment will be! 

Thar she be! Nice green lawn (it isn't right now because it's summer and not much rain).
Patio with pergola and raised flower planters on the near side.
Small shed on the far side against the fence.
The approximate floor plan! (I'll do a larger version later.)
And my three neighbors on my cul de sac.

Today they gave me a link to a few short documents on DocuSign identifying what my final payment consists of, identifying the buyer and seller, specifying what The Title Company is allowed/not allowed to do and what they will do. Basically that's it. 

So I DocuSigned the docu's. Next, I needed to send them a whole castle-full of money. From two different banks because I split the money up from the sale of my previous house:

  • Big Credit Union T*, back down in San Jose, had an online wire form that was easy to fill out and submit there. Someone called me back shortly thereafter to ask questions verifying my identity and asking things like, does this agreement require you to pay unidentified additional monies or ask for money back afterwards. Also whether I know that the property I'm buying actually exists.
  • Tiny Credit Union P*, here in tiny Port Townsend, does not have an online form; not even a form online to print and fill out. Have to go in to talk to them. Good thing the one in San Jose isn't like that. When I arrived, someone else occupied the seat with the manager that I needed to occupy to have this done, I waited nearly half an hour. Actually setting up the wire transfer took no more than 10 minutes. They asked similar questions, including whether I knew that The Title Company truly existed and was truly a legit business who would not be a fly-by night thang. (I am paraphrasing all the questions for poetic license.)
So, THAT BIG THING FULL OF MONEY will be out of my figurative hands tomorrow, and into the new owner's hand this coming Monday, and then SOMEONE WILL HAND ME THE KEYS! 

So excited! So broke. [wide eyes not panicking too much really]

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* All company names changed to protect--oh, who knows. But I did it here anyway.

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Saturday, September 10, 2022

Doves, Music, Lyrics, and the Mysterious Ways of Brains

SUMMARY: They weren't the lyrics I thought they were.

[I *swear* I'll have something up about the new house tomorrow.]

On a driving trip through Arizona in 2010, taking photos as I went, I took a shot of blooming saguaro cactus and realized that it had a lovely dove perched on it taking sips of water from one of the flowers. I looked it up in my bird book: White-Winged Dove. Because I always like to know. 

 For some reason the topic of my vacation (or of birds or I don't know what) came up later in my dog agility class. I told about the bird drinking from a flower. What kind of bird? A species I'd never heard of before: White-Winged Dove. 

One of my classmates said, "oh! Like the song!" And it took me no more than a blink and two heartbeats to know exactly what she meant and to realize that the lyrics I'd thought for nearly 30 years were "like the wild wind does, sings a song sounds like she's singing" were not the actual lyrics. 

How I made that connection so quickly, I have no idea. She said nothing else about the song than those four words. I wonder what expression I had on my face.

Tuesday, September 06, 2022

Horrid Wonderful Treats From My Childhood.

SUMMARY: And sometimes adulthood.

Nope, no house posts for a while. So much for Every Day.

BUT MEANWHILE I ran across this fun post about childhood favorites that lose their luster and just had to write my response. Here:

Wow, my childhood in a nutshell!


We loved Wonder bread. Best thing about it was that we’d peel off the crust, break the white part into small pieces, and roll them into tiny hard balls of … white stuff. So much fun to eat that way. Although the slices were also great slathered with a super thick layer of peanut butter. I haven’t bought this bread in decades and intend to keep it that way.

Hostess cupcakes–astonishingly I still love an occasional package of the orange ones. Why? I don’t know, but I do. Good thing they have about 10,000 calories each so it makes it easy to justify not buying them except in a cupcake emergency.

Kool-Aid, YESSS!! We always had a container of green Kool-Aid in the family fridge. All the kids knew that we were the place to go to get a cold glass of green Kool-Aid. I kept it up after I moved out until I was about 23, by which time I was a full-on Mug RootBeer in stumpy glass bottles addict. The next time I got around to making the Kool-Aid…. ugh. Haven't made it in decades, I don't think.

Oreos–the only ones I can handle are the fudge-covered mint-filled ones. Those, I can suck down a container full in the blink of my tongue. So bad, so good.

Necco wafers: I still love them. Why? Not sure. Maybe they taste of childhood? I just about danced in circles around the retro-candy-brands store last week [I left my phone at home! So no photos!] when I saw that they carried them! (I had heard they’d been discontinued.) I went through the roll in a day. Maybe I’ll go back for another in a few weeks. Some things just can’t be explained.


Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Things To Get For Whatever New House

 SUMMARY: Things I need or want no matter what house I end up buying

Note: No posts for the past 3 days because I've done nothing house related and a lot of things unrelated. 

When I left San Jose, I made conscious decisions--consciously considered for, in some cases, quite a few years--to not take a variety of furnishings with me. Because: New House! Retirement! Get things I like better! Here are the bigger ones.

  • Welllll crud, I don't find ANY photos of the
    guest room and its furniture... after all these
    decades! You can kinda see the white & gold
    on the mirror over the dresser.

    Guest bedroom furniture. 

    White & gold bureau, side tables, double bed with headboard, box springs, and mattress-- inherited from my Grandparents. Good, solid pieces and in excellent condition. BUT (a) I've had them for 44 years, (b) they were never really my style anyway, and (c) I've not often had sleepover guests, so it all took up a lot of space that didn't get used often.
    Replacement: I'll definitely have some nice comfy bed for visitors, but I'm thinkin'--Murphy bed! James Bond! I've been reading up on them. With some kind of bedside table (that also folds down!) and a separate bureau...TBD


  • Sofa.
    The large ivory fabric sectional served me perfectly for a long time. BUT (a) I bought it used in the first place back in 1991, and it is showing its age, (b) it is simply too low for me these days, (c) it is most useful with several guests (which doesn't happen much any more because EVERYONE MOVED OUT OF STATE, and (d) keeping a couch of that color clean and nice looking for guests when I had ... ta da... dogs! remained an ongoing challenge.
    Replacement: Friends with dogs and leather couches let the dogs on the furniture with impunity and it still looks great. So: Darker color, leather, higher seating profile, long enough to lie down full length.
  • Entertainment center
    I got a lovely oak one that matched the rest of my furniture--free! From FreeCycle! in excellent condition. It had shelves for all of my audio/video gear (CD player etc) and plenty of storage for other things. BUT (a) the space for a TV can't be rearranged or changed in size and is useless otherwise, (b) it's so big that one needs a whole wall for it, not flexible, and (c) although I almost never watch TV anyway, the configuration of this one made it difficult anyway.
    Replacement: Not sure yet. Some kind of modular units for the audio/visual gear. So, TBD.

    Big white sectional sofa in the back; entertainment center on the right.

  • Television
    Yeah, I seldom watch TV, but the newer ones are amaaazing. I think I want a larger TV than the one I have (which is at least 20 years old and that I got free from a friend), and I want it wall mounted. Maybe ceiling?!  Maybe silly because I don't watch often--but if I get the right seating and right TV location--probably would watch more
    Replacement:  TBD
  • Sewing machine table, sewing machine
    So handy when I did sew stuff. BUT Sewing machine died and newer ones probably don't fit this table. I hardly ever sewed any more. The table took up a lot of space, even though when closed it could be used as a generic large, heavy (i.e., inconvenient) tabletop.  
    Replacement: New sewing machine, but no table for it, thenk yew.



Do not think for even a minute that I have an unlimited budget. Soooooo we shall see how this wish list goes.

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Thursday, August 11, 2022

New House Documents

 SUMMARY: So many things to read and sign!

Everyone seems to use DocuSign now for viewing and signing legal docs. Did this when I sold my parent's house. Also when I put my San Jose house on the market earlier this year and then, eventually, sold it. So many documents! I'm an old pro now at signing electronically.

So far for this new house, I've read and, in many cases, initialed and/or signed (maybe not everything, and not necessarily in this order):

  • The responsibilities (and limitations) of a realtor (AH is handling my house hunt and purchase)
  • The neighborhood (4 houses only!) CC&Rs and CC&R Amendment -- short and sweet (What are CC&Rs?)
  • Short Plat (measurement, easements, and survey notes on the property)
  • Original Sewer (septic system) permit drawing and info
    Partial septic permit

  • Residential Purchase and Sale Agreement: The original offer that I made on the house (5 pages) a week ago and the seller's counter offer, which I accepted (small mods to that document)
  • Addendums to the agreement that I will provide proof of available funds for purchasing and that the agreement isn't final until I have had the house inspected and accept the results 
  • Blah blah standard addendums coming out my ears (just a few more single-page items providing assorted info), plus the FIRPTA (Foreign Investment Real Property Tax Act), which essentially says, nope, we're all citizens here
  • An amendment to the Agreement because I didn't think about my Trust until after the Agreement was signed
  • Amendment to the agreement to extend the time for completing inspections by 5 days 
  • Septic inspection reports from the last 2 years
  • Contract with a property inspector specifying what they do and don't inspect
  • Commitment for title insurance
  • Preliminary Title Report (13 pages)

Septic system access covers
(as shown on the drawing above)

Yesterday and today, I: 

  • Paid the property inspector
  • Paid my "earnest money" to the title company; essentially a small deposit which, in certain uncommon circumstances, I could lose if I back out of the sale. Very standard.
  • Provided the title company with proof that I have the full cash purchase price covered across various banks
  • Discussed with AH the inspector's preliminary verbal report, what items we would ask the seller take care of over the next week, and that I will pay for an inspection of the HVAC system (built-in vacuum) in the same timeframe (and AH will find someone to do the inspection)
Just wait until I get to Signing Day with the title company. Six squillion more documents to read and sign and then--erk--I hand over the purchase price to the title company!

Exciting! And not too scary; this will be the 5th home I've purchased over the years.

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Wednesday, August 10, 2022

New House Inspection

SUMMARY: Howzit look, professionally?

Mr. Inspector Man descending into the crawl space.
Which he said looked really good, no issues.
Lots of spiderwebs.

My realtor AH and I met a house inspector this morning at "my new" house, crossing our fingers that he would not find rotting floors, shattering foundations, leaking walls, corpses in the crawl space, or anything else that could kill the deal. I have until Friday to make my final agreement to buy, but everything looked as good as I had expected (and hoped).

Previous owner took great care of this house. Also helped that it's only 14 years old.

The house, not the previous owner.

The main disappointment was that, for a house this age, the inspector thinks that the roof should probably have another 5 usable years left...I had hoped for maybe 10. Soooo... from proceeds from selling my previous house, I need to set aside at least $10,000 for that eventuality not too far down the proverbial highway of life. 

But.

Poor lilac; its base is mere inches from the house wall. Who does that? Seriously!

Otherwise, just a lot of small things to be aware of or that I or a handyman could probably handily handle, such as these examples:

  • Hall bathroom grout along bathtub needs to be dug out and replaced with caulk (for Official Reasons)
  • One ceiling light didn't light--am asking the seller to replace the bulb to confirm it's just a bulb issue and not Aliens.
  • One door whose hang needs adjusting [um, that's my phrasing, and now it sounds kinky]
  • Couple of nails to  be replaced and recovered. Assuming those aren't THE TWO KEY NAILS HOLDING IT ALL TOGETHER.
  • Trim the huge lilac shrub at the corner of the house so it's not touching the house. That'll be a machete hacking cut, it just shouldn't have been planted that close to the house. 

(Lilac photo is from the house's listing online.)

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Tuesday, August 09, 2022

New House Layout and Tidbits

SUMMARY: It has rooms and Stuf

Few home-for-sale listings provide a floorplan unless they are brand new. This house isn't; it's 14 years old. But the home seller apparently saved a copy from Way Back When. Rooms are good sizes; layout is lovely for someone who wants a downsized footprint.

Tidbits! it has:

  • Nine-foot ceilings! (2.74 m) And the living room is vaulted even higher! It feels light, airy, spacious, and so breathable. Standard modern homes in US are 8 feet (2.44 m)--and have been for decades. 
  • A whole-house built-in vacuum! I've always yearned for one. This one comes with a bonus little sucker at the bottom of one of the kitchen cabinets so if you want to do a quick sweep-up of dog hair, simply whisk it into that corner, step on the switch, and pfffft away it goes.
  • An extra-wide entry hall, so bookcases fit on one side and a table and bench on the other. Without feeling crowded. (Photo is from the listing and shows the seller's furnishings, not mine.) Gives me shivers of delight.


Front door is normal width; wide-angle images distort some things.

(Images are from the house's listing online.)

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Monday, August 08, 2022

New House Story

SUMMARY: Buying one in Washington!

I'm going to try to post daily how this all happened/is happening. I'm already a month (or 3 years?) behind, but there's not a lot to say until last week. 

But I am calling it my Viking House--I have traversed the wild seas of California, Oregon, and Washington, into the woods of a new seaside village,  and am setting down roots. Like Vikings of old!

Keep checking back!

Notes: 

  • It's not a new house; it's just new to me
  • The sale is not final yet. Keeping fingers crossed.



(photo is from the house's listing online.)

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Thursday, April 14, 2022

Sunrise, Sunset, and oh boy More Daylight!

SUMMARY: Pacific northwest advantage

I'm living in northwestern Washington state now. A little different from San Jose. And the differences are big when one wants to count hours of sunlight (at least nominally) pouring into one's eyeballs.

For tomorrow, here:

Sunrise: 6:21

Sunset: 8:02

Back in San Jose:

Sunrise: 6:33

Sunset: 7:43

Soooo a magnificent 20 minutes more already for evening strolls. And twilight lingers longer, as well. Niiiiice. 

The winter won't br so generous but, hey, I've got the whole summer still to look forward to.

April 10, 7:52 PM: Looking up 12th street by our house (not visible here)

April 10, 7:52 PM: Looking down in the opposite direction towards Puget Sound and the ferry.