I suspect this gift horse is a trojan.

So, apparently the origin of “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth” is the latin phrase “Noli equi dentes inspicere donati”. Which is all very well when it’s actually a gift.

However, when looking at land that’s surprisingly cheap, it’s not really a gift so much, so looking at the reason the price-tag’s so low is a good plan. Which is what I did today. Armed with a list of questions Kathryn and I had compiled I headed back down to the permit assistance center (where they’ll soon be bored of the sight of me). Having looked at the land and various issues it looks like it’ll be either expensive or potentially impossible to build on it.

The combination of gradients and size of the plateau may mean that the only way to get permission to build on it is an expensive and slow process, with no guarantee of success.

Even the quickest way wouldn’t give us an answer for at least 4 weeks and is likely to cost over $350, just to tell us that we need to spend $3800-$4000 for the no-guarantee route.

This is unfortunate, because I needed cheering up because whilst I’ve fixed one of the leaks in Rebecca, the trunk (boot) is still leaking from somewhere, and now as a bonus special treat, the windshield (windscreen) is leaking from one corner too. Yay.

I did, in the end, engage in retail therapy. I’m still on the look out for a nice CD player, so I headed to goodwill. And bought a Stick blender and a Breadmaker*. Obviously.

* I’m sorry Oly, but the bread is just no comparison, no comparison at-all to Hart’s bakery in Bristol

Of course we did.

So, we went to look at property yesterday. 5 viewings, scattered across the Oly area. There was the first plot that was wet and surprisingly noisy, the second plot that was wet and had a home that needed pulling down and you’d have to build right on the road, the fourth plot which has utilities in the road and a channel prepped to bring in the utility cables and is in a nice area with a pretty view (clearly the sensible choice), the fifth plot which has river frontage and a cute (possibly salvagable) 100 year old cabin on the lot…and an easy level building area.

So which one are we both desperately resisting being excited by?

The third one. The impossible to access one, which currently has no access road, on the top of a ridge, with basalt rock underneath. It has a well that’s roughly 150’* vertically down from the potential home site, which is currently covered in a semi-demolished-rotten-unpermitted cabin. The only building on site is an 8×12′ ‘cabin’ which currently has no floor. We’re unclear if the well is even permitted and might be within a wetland protection boundary. Half of the land is unbuildable due to power lines, but that’s fine, because the other half is where we’d want to be.

The only teensy problem is getting there. Oh, and owning an EV? We’re going to have put in some kind of emergency charging point at the bottom of the hill, because the 150′ steep climb at the end is probably not ideal if it’s nearly flat.

Anyhow, masochistic tendencies aside, we’ve got two possible sites of interest, but it must be said the one we’re most excited about is improbably challenging.

ETA* It may be ~80′, actually. It’s tricky to decide exactly where it, and the contours for what we’re planning to build lie.

Settle.

Life continues to be more or less the same as it ever was. I’ve been working, at least intermittently, and I’ve even been paid. That has been rather nice, although it’s led to a bit of a flurry of spending as I’ve taken a bunch of stuff off the ‘want list’ which included several things that I’d decided I wouldn’t buy until we got to the US.

I’d been holding that restraint for a couple of years. Adding in the last 3 months of me not buying pretty much anything (I bought a few books, and a few items for our business) and then say “look, you’ve been paid”. I snapped. Much of this is ‘fun’ stuff, but the other thing that’s sucked up funds is things like ‘UK to US’ plug adaptors (10 of ’em, on the way). I’d thought I’d replace the old UK plugs with US ones, but bare US plugs are actually ridiculously pricey, so instead I’ve just bought adaptors. From China. Also, bonus, I get to keep the fuses for added safety.

And BC – Edison Screw lamp adaptors. I was unaware that such things existed – so I’d bought one of the 85-250v LED BC lamps for one of the anglepoises (as a test), but having discovered these I can just go to the store and get what, in the US, are regular LED bulbs and throw those in. Hurrah! These adaptors were way cheaper than the special bulbs and had free postage. Since I’m not in a raring hurry to get the lamps working, that’s fine.

I also started setting up my ‘home lab’, as it were. Up until now I’ve scrounged stuff from the lovely John, but 4k miles is a little far to take things for testing, and it’s a little tricky to ask John if he’d like to pop over for an evening of tinkering with electronics. I’ve finally got it together and bought a (new) soldering iron / rework gun combo. I wasn’t going to get a rework gun, I mean, me and surface mount are not close friends. But with our business plans, I may want to put together some kind of board with surface mount components, in which case a rework gun will become handy – and it was a few dollars extra to get that functionality. Second hand kit that’s also winging its way to me is a ‘scope that weighs approximately the same as the house (50Mhz Tektronix 453*).

Die perfekte Welle

I doubt mine will look 1/10th as nice when it arrives. Indeed, I know some of the plastic knobules from the switches are missing (the selector knobs are all there). I’m hoping (really hoping) that one day my 3D printer will arrive and I can print myself some new ones. If not, I’ve got some sugru in the toolbox.

I thought about getting something a bit fancier that would be better for digital hardware (perhaps the 150Mhz 454), but if I decide I need that later I can either sell off the Tektronix 453 and get something ‘more modern’, or just suck up the expense if I’ve got attached to the 453. I’ve also got an HP 6200B bench power supply on its way too. John has infested my mind with his HP / Tektronix lovin’, which meant that other, cheaper options got ditched on the way to this selection, but I think they should be handy. And the 453 seems to be considered to be a pretty good scope – which it’s within the realms of my knowledge to repair and keep going.

Whilst the scope is slightly frivolous at the moment, and is partly a ‘I have little to do at home’ thing some of the kit will be handy straight away. The bench supply will be handy getting the car alarm configured… since it wants to charge a bit before it works, and you need to send it various text messages to get it configured. That bench supply will also be doing duty building up the circuit for the first kit we’re planning for our business.

Most of this kit is pretty tatty, but should be enough to get me ‘up and running’. At least, once I’ve given it a really, really good clean it should be.

This splurge of spending does mean that I’m now rather over excited when I see UPS and USPS vans, which tediously never seem to actually stop here…

Still. I don’t think I can buy much else for the rest of the month (except for needs – like maintaining my poor Minor, that’s had hundreds of miles added some weeks). At any rate, I shall try to exercise restraint. I’ve put a bit into my savings this month and then I’m hoping to put some of the funds we extracted back into the house-savings too.

At any rate, the rain paused yesterday for long enough for me to go and throw silicone sealant around the minor with reckless abandon.

IMG_20160310_164646

Water’s been dripping in through that wiper spindle’s hole for a while. In an attempt to prevent it totally destroying the glove box liner, and the radio underneath, and then the floor below that, I whipped off the nut cleaned up the seals and put them back with a thin layer of windscreen silicone on them. I note that this has been done before, with what appears to be gasket sealant. That might have been me… but it didn’t work that time. Here’s hoping this time it does work. Overnight it’s rained and there wasn’t any water that I could feel, so fingers crossed I might get some relief from that.

I also attacked the boot (trunk) – using sealant around the holes where the “MORRIS 1000” badge is mounted. This morning the boot (trunk) was actually bone dry, which I think is a first, and made me quite happy.

I also commenced trying to understand how to fit the alarm – and realised that actually, it’d probably make more sense for it to be on our family contract for it’s SMS messaging, rather than me stick it on the Net10 sim I’ve got kicking around. Well, maybe. We need to go and see if we can beg a cellspot for the house as it is slightly ridiculous that you have to go outside to make calls a lot of the time and while we’re there I’ll see if I can add it on at a low rate. Otherwise I’ll see which provider is cheapest for a pure voice/SMS option. It doesn’t need data of any sort, so it’s a big silly getting it a voice/data contract. I also realised that the alarm wants an SD card for some of its more handy features, and it makes sense to fit that before I put the alarm in the car.

Given that it’s a cheap Chinese system the manual is somewhat challenging to understand at times. Fortunately, it doesn’t seem to require too many features the Minor doesn’t have (indeed, it looks like it should actually be able to track the fuel level of the Minor, which is pretty nifty, though why I’d want to is unclear).

I thought about fitting it this morning; indeed that was my ‘plan’ for the day. But I am distrustful of the weather, and although it said “0% chance of rain” the forecast started to get a bit sketchy around lunchtime, and it looks like rain every day after now for a while, so getting part-way through is undesirable. I succumbed to my rain-fear and went for a walk instead.

IMG_20160311_095307

Which was probably a good plan as it’s been hacking with rain for the last hour and half, and I’d’ve probably still been out there dangling upside-down. I think when I have all the relevant bits, I’ll be a bit more enthused about getting it done.

In other news, I headed out yesterday to see if I could find a stick blender. We’ve wanted one for a long time, and before I got paid I kept seeing them at goodwill and value village. Of course, now I’ve actually been paid, they’ve vaporised. Goodwill does make me miss the cleanliness of most British charity shops. I’m sure there’s awesome stuff in there, but the electronics sections always make me feel rather like I need to wash my hands thoroughly on leaving. Anyhow, what I did find was ‘Goodwill Outlet’, which is a fearsome place. Unsorted, sad old things piled into plastic waist high bins… It’s the kind of place I feel the need to have a companion, because rifling through the stuff in there by yourself, it feels kinda weird. I suspect that there probably are stick blenders lying prone at the bottom of those bins, but I didn’t quite have the guts to pull so much stuff out.

And then we come to the elephant in the absent room. The house.

We’re off looking at properties this weekend. Five of ’em. One with a building, one with a ‘building’ (it’s a house of “poor quality” built in 1901), and 3 bits of land that are just land. I continue to feel the disappointment from the permit-disaster-wetland-hideousness, but hopefully one of these will speak to our souls. One of them, funnily enough, enormously close to where Kathryn’s mom used to live, and would give us effectively the same view. Which is weird. Although the land-with-buildings-on may be better for us, in terms of both location and usefulness. Still, we’ll see what happens.

* Handily, this is old enough that the entire manual is available here

Brrm, brrm.

So, yesterday being Friday, and the scheduled car-purchase day, Kathryn dropped me at the (conveniently close) Amtrak station and I got my first experience of US trains. Yes, it started from the station 20 minutes late, but it was a pretty relaxing ride, and some of the scenery was just beautiful. Despite many promises along the way we arrived… 20 minutes late. Still.

It was also, unsurprisingly, raining*. Which whilst some of it was very pretty (the mist rising off foothills), much of it was somewhat obscured. Mind you, it was nothing as to the journey back. Anyhow, I made it down to Portland, OR. Now why travel out of state for a car? Well, after much debate we’d decided that we’d get a first generation Honda Insight. These are kinda cool insofar as they’re Honda going ‘oh look we’ve got this great research project on hybrids, let’s see how many people will buy one’. It’s about the nearest thing to a hand built car we’ll ever own. All aluminium and all the tech they could throw at it.

They’re not quite collectable. Some people think they might be one day, others argue they won’t. Ours definitely won’t because it was much lower in price than others as it’s been rebuilt from a write-off (or ‘Totaled – Rebuilt’ as it says on the title). The thing is, the value of these cars is low enough that even a fairly minor prang can kill them – looking it over, it all looks pretty straight underneath and on-top. You can see where it’s been repaired – the metalwork at the front has a slight twist where the paint’s just cracked ever so slightly.

Having seen a few of them accident damaged, the toughened ally wings (fenders?) tend to crack rather than bend. So I expect it looked pretty terrible after whatever happened to it. Anyhow, it looks fine now, and has a startling 38,000 miles on the clock (for a 10 year old car, that’s pretty impressive).

Anyhow, Nikki + Kids met me at the station and we headed in to a public charger for her Leaf. Off we went for coffee and came back to find the charger had got bored at 60% for no obvious reason. After brief debate we headed off anyway, and made it over to Willsonville, where the car was waiting for us. Nikki’d already given it a test drive, but I took it out for a second survey. Nothing hugely untoward came up – although the CVT was maybe a touch noisy. Although it’s hard to tell. These cars are built for efficiency, not quiet, so that might just be the way it’s meant to be. Also, it turned out there was not much oil in the CVT.

After a bit more gentle prodding, Nikki headed off with the Leaf to find a proper charge, and I made my way through a US car purchase for the first time in my life. Not complex, but weird not knowing which bits of paper to sign and where. The plan was for us to meet up at the charger, but first I had to sort insurance. After several failed phone-calls and failed payment attempts we got that done, and then I trundled off.

Unfortunately, the charger Nikki was meant to be going to, for some reason didn’t show up on my map. Well, not until I got much nearer having visited two others. By which time she’d finished and moved off to her next errand. Thankfully I found her looping the car park outside the electronics store she’d messaged me to say she’d be in. Given the low oil in the CVT I was reluctant to make the 130 mile journey without a top up – and headed over to the local Honda dealer who were *lovely*. I pulled in and went to buy the fluid, assuming there was a filler I could reach – then asked the nice chap a the counter who explained that no, there wasn’t.

So then I asked if they could squeeze in a top-up and they sorted it, topped up the transmission fluid (for free) and sent me on my way. Parker Honda, Wilsonville. That’s ace customer service :)

Now, I kicked back at my friends for a while, petting their dogs, where it slowly became apparent that I’d not taken my antihistamines in my rush for the train. It turns out I *am* allergic to dogs still – and as my eyes worked up to itching and I went forth sniffling I cursed my idiocy. Still, after rush-hour(s) was (were) done I girded my loins and stepped in the car. Many-a-time I’ve dragged cars back hundreds of miles, but this was the first time I’d be crossing state lines…

…and some how it felt a little more unnerving.

Actually though, the journey back was uneventful. Apart from the *fucking hideous rain*. This bit of the country, it knows how to rain, yes it does. But the little Honda did its thing admirably. We trundled home, 130 miles isn’t loads here, but it felt like a lot in a brand new decade old car and in the dark. Creeping in at around 2230, having set off from home 14 hours earlier I was very, very pleased to get in to bed.

It’s yet another trophy of moving country. We’re here, we own a car.

And today we spent time looking and land and houses**.

Hopefully soon our stuff will arrive and then we’ll feel more rooted. I hope.

* Did I mention that it rains twice as much here as in Bristol?
** And watching Philomena, because it was raining and hailing and… because we were tired. Basically.

How’s it going?

It’s kind of hard for me to judge how it’s going at the moment. I’m still waiting for references to arrive, so each day is kind of blurring into the next one as I trade between couch and dining table, finding little tasks for me to do. I’ve got a record deck on the way that needs servicing, which is something I can dink with. I’ve been over to my soon-to-be-workplace for a drug test, which was a first in my life.

Although I required chiding at every stage of the process, eventually we got the urine sealed in the requisite sample container¬†with me having more-or-less kept my eyes on it the whole time. Which was, frankly, a weird experience. I suppose it doesn’t help that I’m so aware of the concepts that underpin slight-of-hand that I think that well, it doesn’t matter if I think I’ve kept an eye on it, someone who really wanted to doctor it could.

At any rate, it’s done. So now I’m just waiting for references to be processed. In the mean time I’m off to go look at a car. A Honda Insight, actually. First generation. It’s about a decade old, and I’m sure not what anyone in their right mind would tell me to buy, but it’s a pretty good looking car, with reasonably solid efficiency.

So those were my two main ‘tasks’ I’d set myself while I was off (I was, to be fair, hoping to be working by now) – which leaves me with more pondering time. So I find myself wondering how I’m settling in. I mean, everyone asks. Even random strangers ask. How are you finding it? What’s different? What’s the same?

I find myself wondering these things as I watch the evergreens flitting past the windows whenever I drive anywhere.

And y’know, I don’t really know. It’s all a bit weird at the moment, while I’m not working. I mean, it’s like a prolonged semi-holiday. I do know that everyone (more or less) has been lovely. People have been understanding of my idiocy as I’m stood there going “I don’t know how this works!”. The scenery around here is beautiful. My drive home I watch for the mountain each time, and when the light catches it right? Wow.

The incessant rain has so far not bothered me too much. Though there is, seriously, a lot of rain. I mean, I thought it rained a lot in Bristol (Average precipitation for the month of January – 90mm (3.5ish inches) but here? Oh wow… 190mm (7.8 inches). That explains much. When I thought it feels like it’s raining more here? It’s raining more here. Anyhow, that alone hasn’t really dampened my spirits.

I’m still finding my feet, very much so, but so far it’s not been terribly unpleasant an experience :)
A

As planned, then not quite as planned

Not that there was a plan. But yesterday actually seemed to go okay. Spent the evening offering my nursey services for free. There’s a volunteer run clinic here in Oly, for people who’ve got no health coverage. And I spent the evening shadowing another nurse, although realistically I could have stepped in to start work after the first patient. It’s triage, it seems to be the same the world over. Apart from the fact that I suddenly have to recall my 12 times table for frickin’ inches, because every-damn-person gives their height in feet and inches.

And also Fahrenheit. Bloody Fahrenheit. Gah.

But other than that, it was peachy. And it happens the computer translates when you enter it, so I actually can use my nursey-sense when I look at the temperature in centigrade. It’ll come, when I get some practice, but it’s just when I look at a temperature in fahrenheit, or a height in inches, it means very little to me at the moment.

To be fair, we switched units on our blood gas analyser at the place I used to work, and it took me a little while, but fairly soon after we were forced given the opportunity to switch over I was happy with the new units. It’ll come.

Also yesterday I tried to make clotted cream. About $8 worth of cream got cooked for about 12 hours at 185°F / 85°C… I think it’s a bit long. Taste wise, I think it’s not far off. But texture wise, it’s positively crumbly. Which is a shame. I think maybe a couple less hours in the oven, maybe a bit more of the runny milky stuff that I strained off (and used to make the scones. Healthy, huh).

Still, it’s a step up on the stuff that we got from the shop. That was positively not right too.

Today, though, apart from the scones which are a smidge over done has been a little tricky. Pyoor.org, the actual home of my entirely narcissistic blog (no matter where you’re reading this) today got flagged by a friend as potentially having been hacked and showing up as having malware on it. After much dinking, I now think it’s probably server misconfiguration – and am waiting for the company that I use who do the underlying configuration (yes, I am now that lazy – or I admit that this is not what I’m spending my time doing, and therefore not ideally placed to keep it up to date). But that took a while, and lots of tedious fiddling.

I’m hoping I’ve not broken anything in the interim.

So yuh.

Making it happen (slowly)

So things are plodding along. I’d like to make things happen faster, it feels bad being at home while Kathryn’s out working. I feel like I should be doing something more productive with my day, but until we make decisions like “long term where will we be living” and “we want our house to look roughly like this” then it’s all fairly nebulous.

I’ve got a rough price for our house build, found what will be a workshop on Straw Bale construction I hope to attend (no date for it yet), people who can help with building, I’ve got rough guestimates for prices and some geothermal (ground source heat pump) kit supplier prices. I’ve found solar panel kits that I think we should be able to afford… I am going to have a wander around the library at some point to see if I can find some books to inspire.

But really, I feel that vague I need to do something without the something to do.

This is, of course, going to change when I start working. But getting references across country lines, and all that jazz, it takes a while.

Still it’s given me some time to refresh my auscultation skills which are a little rusty. And I’ve got my volunteering which I start tonight. About which I’m feeling more than a little teeny bit nervous.

Anyhow, other than that, there’s been some sticker shock. The value of the dollar was, when we came over about 3/4ths a quid. Which meant that price labels are going to freak me out, anyhow. But on top of that, two things that are our current big expenses, cars and food, are already more expensive here. That is proving unnerving as I’m waiting to start working, and our money quietly gets sucked away.

Still, Kathryn’s been sketching interesting house layouts, and I think we’ve got a good potential car to go look at. So.

I’d quite like to feel a bit more settled, but at the moment it’s still a bit floaty. And life is full of minor irritations like – the google play store not wanting to switch country (done now, with a bit of help – turns out it has your home address in multiple, unlinked places). But gradually I’m getting there. I am, of course, saving up the ‘I need to go see a doctor at some point’ fun for another day. I rang the insurance company and checked, and it is just ‘go see a doctor, they’ll bill us, we’ll pay the bit we want to pay’ to summarise (some companies seem to want pre-alerting to the fact you’re going to see a doctor (seriously? How complicated do you want to make it?!)). So at some point I’ll find an LGBT friendly doctor (there seem to be scant few who list themselves as such in Oly) – I’ve got one a few names (both in Seattle) that might do.

But I’d rather not trek to Seattle just to see the doc. Just for my regular meds. Y’know?

I cannot explain just how much I’m missing my music collection. Every time I go to listen to something on the tiny, tiny collection of stuff I remembered to stick on my ‘phone before we emigrated I either discover it’s not there, or then am disappointed that it sounds like it’s being played on teeny tiny speakers the size of mouse headphones.

“We have normality. I repeat, we have normality.

…Anything you still can’t cope with is therefore your own problem.”

Slowly life is starting to return to normal. Or what passes for normal these days. Although we are both still, seemingly, hyper stressed, and our stuff is one week away from being in the country (as opposed to continuing its trek around the country), and I’m driving a V6 (or V8) Dodge Caravan… but we’re slowly finding our feet.

I have spent the morning being slightly productive. I’ve been to the Social Security Office (where they were very nice and fixed my name, and I even made two of the people there laugh which was nice). I’ve been to the bank and fixed my PIN which I’ve been unable to remember since picking it when I was given my bank cards. So I can now pay for things on our joint account. I’ve been to the supermarket. I’ve put out the rubbish trash. I’ve bought coffee that’s more to my taste*. I’ve navigated back without google maps. I’ve looked at a lot of old Honda Insights (2001-2006 model year) online – since we think that’s what we’ll be buying. I’ve even found a possible one – which is only 100 miles away.

I’ve fed the birds, put up a smoke alarm, and emptied the dishwasher.

It’s all been terribly normal. I might wander out for a walk…who knows.

That said, I was pretty down last night – after we realised our plans for the house were wildly optimistic, and that the house sale and the minor and various other things had cut us back by nearly $40k all in. To say I was grumpy really doesn’t entirely cover the range of my utter disappointment. Especially since early in the evening we’d both agreed that buying an EV right now is probably not the best plan (we’d love to, but we’re not sure whether we need the super expensive not-really-in-our-price-range one, and with the 200 mile EVs coming in next year, that should drop the price of the ones we want anyway – and by then we should know more about what we’re needing it to be capable of). But having reached that disappointing conclusion the looming possibility that we might not be building our place, and then the realization that we might not be able to do geothermal heating, because we probably couldn’t afford the house-with-land…and then spiralling ‘oh fuck it all’ meant I was pretty fed up by the time we hit bed.

However, having slumped into bed we did some sums and realized that we were planning a house way bigger than we need.

Actually, our last house came in at around 900 Sq Ft (not including the garage). And building something a around that size is probably within our budget. Just because everyone else has 2000 sq ft houses doesn’t mean we need that much. To be honest, we don’t really need even 1000 sq ft of space… but it was a nice size. This house we’re in is probably around 1600 or so sq ft, and is actually vast (at least to my little British brain). So it’s possible the building idea is back on. Which makes me happier…

…so, uh, yeah.

…so better. Yeah. That’s my opinion.

* The people we’re renting from like a really dark roast, and kindly left us coffee. I like a much milder roast… I got my coffee – and then made a substance that’s a bit like coffee and more like water. Me and the drip filter need to make friends.

Of all the things…

…I thought I’d struggle to get in the USA, Rosehip tea wasn’t one of them.

Now I know, if we go to the right grocery store, we’ll find it. I have faith.

But it’s my go-to bed-time comfort-tea. And we’ve not got any. And we’ve been to about 4 stores, and none of them have had it. It’s becoming a quest.

And I’ve got a cold. So I want my go-to-comfort-bed-time-cozy-snuggly-tea. *sulk*.

I’ve also spent the day not buying things on e-bay (or cars.com, or craigslist) which is a dubious past time that leads to temptation*. And temptation leads to…

…yeah. So, I have to be careful.

On the plus side, despite lurgee, I’ve managed to finally stop playing voicemail ping-pong and actually caught the person I was aiming to catch, and have now arranged a second interview for next week. Ra! (TerrifiedRa!).

* Look! The ungodly offspring of a Range Rover and a Morris Marina! That clearly should be on our drive. What’s that you say? A Commuta-Car! Fuck yeah! Need that right away. Oh, poor little DS… I hear your cries… I’ll look after you… Gaaah.

And that’s before we’ve even got to test equipment… Or stuff for the business…