Monday, February 28, 2005

Chilly Hilly article

Just a quick note - the Seattle PI has a brief article on yesterday's Chilly Hilly. It looks like somebody did it on a unicycle!

Francesca teased Brian about doing the ride one-legged (one foot was a bit sore due recent surgery?), but assuming you had the leg muscles to pull it off, at least you could rest and coast down hills. I think a unicycle is fixed-gear - meaning the wheel and cranks/pedals turn as a unit, so no coasting: you roll, you pedal. More significantly, the braking system works the same way. That sounds great, but it means that you will have to work just as hard going down a hill to prevent yourself from runaway speeds.

Speaking of pictures - somebody with the Cascade Bicycle Club newsletter took a picture of Eve in her biking tutu. I'm a member of Cascade, so I'll be sure to watch for that pic in the next month's newsletter.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Chilly Hilly

I met six friends and we rode Chilly Hilly, a Cascade Bike Club event. The ride is a 33 mile loop around Bainbridge Island, and features quite a bit of hill climbing. One small reward of climbing a hill is getting to whiz down the other side!

Normally, the weather in February isn't reliable, so we planned to meet at the ferry and decide if we would ride. I was willing to ride in light rain; others joked about hanging out at the Blackbird Bakery on Bainbridge Island instead. ;) We were united in not wanting to ride in a comlete downpour. As it turned out, the weather was fine. Because so many other people decided to sign up, the registration line was long and we just missed the 9:30 am ferry. Instead, we caught the 10:30 ferry and grabbed some coffee while we waited.

Eve's Outfit

Eve arrived dressed in her special aero suit, complete with matching eyewear and handlebar streamers. The ballerina outfit drew rave reviews from other riders!

Once on Bainbridge Island, we rode with hundreds of fellow cyclists. Our group slowly spread apart, but we took stops every once in a while, so everybody was usually riding with someone else until we regrouped. It was a challenging ride - the first few hills were fine, and slowly as the miles wore on I got more and more tired. My goal for this ride was to spin in the highest cadence possible, so I liberally shifted between all my chainrings, seeking the gear ratio I could spin in. On many of the hills, it was the 30x25, my easiest and lowest gear combination!

About 20 miles into the ride was a shortcut back to the ferry terminal. We took a survey of what everybody thought - everybody said they felt good, so we continued along the full route. Besides, if we took the shortcut we would miss the very long hill just five minutes further. ;) It was grueling... but fun in its own way. The only bad thing about the full route was the poor condition of several miles of the road - it was all ripped up and undergoing repairs.

We finished up a little before 2 pm, and visited the Blackbird Bakery for treats and coffee. Unfortunately, the ferry system was running very far behind (probably because of all the extra time it took to load and unload us cyclists!) and the 3:50 pm ferry we were expecting to ride back actually arrived about 4:40, and it was past 5:00 before it pulled out.

At the bakery...

Francesca, Eve, and Jen, enjoying hot beverages after the ride.

All in all, this is a great ride - assuming the weather holds. As I mentioned, one reward for climbing a hill is zooming down the other side... this would be negated by heavy enough rain (and of course, it would be that much more miserable of a time). There were patches of fog but otherwise, it was fine. My total distance was 33.4 miles, and I clocked my ride time at 2 hours 24 minutes. I rode another mile or two around Winslow to and from the bakery, and in Seattle to and from the ferry to my car.

The Group

My only shot of all of us, and obviously I didn't get anybody's attention. From left to right: Brian (seated, in red/black), Dave (standing, in yellow/black), Eve (seated, pink tutu), Rod (standing, blue/black), Francesca (standing in red/blue/black), Jen (seated in yellow/black). Not pictured: me. ;)

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Snakes in Florida

I subscribe to a lot of magazines, one of which is National Geographic. I got around to reading the January 2005 issue, and found the article on Alien Invaders to be both interesting and creepy (forgive the pun).

No, the article isn't about E.T. The article is about bio-diversity, and what happens when species are introduced somewhere they have no natural predators. The first example, which you can read in the link above, is about how there is a Burmese python infestation in the Florida Everglades. Burmese pythons in the everglades - how?

It turns out people import them as pets, discover they aren't as cuddly as they thought (?!), and then release them into the Everglades. Many species treated like this die out, but a few, such as the python, are adept generalists - they aren't fussy about what they eat, so they survive and breed.

Ugh. If I move to Florida I guess I won't be doing any backpacking trips there. ;)

Friday, February 25, 2005

REI Dividend

I stopped by REI this evening to pick up some sports drink (I am favoring the PowerBar Endurance and PowerBar Recovery these days), and I found out from the cashier that our 2004 dividends are live in the computer. Notices were also recently mailed.

Without hesitation, I managed to spend my $288 dividend.

Why such a big dividend? Well, I've been charging everything I can on my REI Visa, which features a 1% dividend. Let's just say that there are many loyalty and affinity programs out there... the one that works the best for me is to get cash to spend at REI. Last year, I managed to charge my New Zealand trip and four weeks of business travel/hotel on my card, which really helped to boost my dividend.

Besides the PowerBar sports drink, I got: a Leatherman P4 Squirt, a camera tripod (the Ultrapod II), two bike jerseys, two REI t-shirts, one Life Is Good t-shirt (the barn-red bike shirt), a pair of shorts, and one gray long sleeve polypro shirt. My grand total came to... 21 cents. I love it.

Yeah yeah, I shop for clothes at other stores too.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Quiz About Me

After seeing some friends make their own quizzes, I decided to also. This is the third one I've seen: several months ago Meg made one, and now David and Krisanne. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. :)

A Quiz about Karl

I wish the quiz were 12 or 15 questions, I had a few more I could have slipped in. Well, if I come up with enough questions, I'll make another quiz!

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Real Estate Agent

I called a real estate agent friend from my running club, and asked for some advice about selling my house. She came over today for a brief visit, to see the property.

The good news is property values have increased - comparable homes are selling for $340K to $350K. One major catch is my home needs some work on the roof. I knew when I bought my house I'd have to repair the roof or replace it within three to six years - which of course is now one to four years - and I was planning on doing that next year. This regular maintenance would be fine (just one of those home related expenses) assuming I kept it longer for it to appreciate.

Since a roof certification is needed to sell, I will likely have to give some sort of allowance on the sale price. After deducting the money I've spent on painting the house, replacing the furnace, plumping repairs, and of course realtor fees, I may not break even on a sale!

I'll meet the realtor again on Monday, when she'll have a more detailed report and market analysis ready. Right now, it looks like the net will be something between gaining $5K to losing $5K.

I'm not exactly happy about the prospect of losing money on this transaction. Fortunately property does well in this market - I can think of other areas I've lived where a home wouldn't have appreciated much at all over two years, and I'd be faced with a much larger loss having to sell this early. I suppose I can rationalize it by telling myself it is as though I paid around $200/month in rent over the last two years.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Used Books

I had the day off, and in the morning I decided to unclutter my study (a.k.a. third bedroom) by selling some books. So I went through and selected the ones I didn't like enough to keep.

I packed up about twenty of them, went to Half Price Books, and dropped them off at the sales counter. Usually when I sell some books, it is barely worthwhile - in the past I've taken in ten only to get enough in credit for one or two. Still, since I'm likely to move in the near future, I needed to prune my collection.

When I stopped by after a few minutes and heard that they were giving $42 for the books I brought in, I could scarcely contain my glee! I was extremely happy because I was only expecting half of that.

Of course, I spent most of it right back, picking up books that friends have recommended, and other ones I've wanted for a while:

I got all this and about $4 back in change! It was a great haul. In fact, maybe I can really force myself to pick ten more to get rid of.

The first four books will join my backlog of ones to read. Who knows when I'll actually get around to reading them. The next two books will be filed away. And the last book... that will get some immediate attention. :)

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Space Shuttle

One cool thing about living in the Orlando area will be watching the space shuttle and other rocket launches. NASA plans resume the shuttle program with a May 12th to June 3rd launch of Discovery. That will be fun to see!

Leasing Decision

I've decided not to lease the house, for a variety of reasons.

  • I'm lazy and have a low risk tolerance. Being a landlord means dealing with finding tenants, taking security deposits, and handling the business side of things.

  • Since I would live across the country (I'd have to live in Miami to be any farther away!), I would hire a property management company to handle the business side. They would charge a fee (10% - 15% of the monthly rent is typical) and add on any maintenance charges (e.g. cost of repairs, yardwork, etc.) as renters wouldn't be expected to do any of that.

  • I would have to make up whatever deficit the rent doesn't cover, that would reduce whatever mortgage I could get in Florida. Also, by not selling the house, I'd have to come up with another down payment for property I buy down there.

  • My house will need some roof work in the future. When I bought it, the home inspector said the roof would likely need to be repaired in 3 to 6 years. That was 2 years ago, so now it is 1 to 4 years. If I intended on keeping the property, I'd probably replace the roof, which would cost $10,000 to $15,000. Not exactly an expense I'd look forward to handling in that timeframe - because I would be living elsewhere and have that home to maintain.

The math I've been turning over in my head is:

rental income = rent - property management fee - monthly upkeep
WA deficit = WA mortgage - rental income

FL mortgage = WA mortgage - WA deficit

I focused in on the last line, the Florida mortgage. With a gross estimation that I would optimistically only have a "WA deficit" of $500 per month, it works out that I would have to find a property selling for $90K to $100K less, in order to keep my total housing expenditure the same. In other words, have my Florida mortgage (and taxes, insurance, etc.) work out to $500 a month less than my current mortgage, so I could make up the difference.

Now real estate is cheaper in the Orlando area, but it is also more rural. I decided that should I relocate, I'd like to live closer to the city - not to be new in the area, but living cheap out in the boondocks. So while real estate is cheaper, looking in my target area for property $100K cheaper, will limit my options.

To that end, I contacted a real estate friend and I'll talk to her Monday about listing my home.

Ultimately, if having rental property as an investment interests me, my best strategy is to buy some property in Orlando, and rent that out when I move (i.e. I meet the woman of my dreams and we need a bigger place!), assuming of course that I move locally. There is a certain proximity radius I need to be under in order to be a landlord.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Expensive Magazine Subscription

A door-to-door salesman caught me at home, which is unusual since I'm not typically home when they call. This one was a young man selling magazine subscriptions. I listened to his spiel, in which he basically said 1) I get points for how many people I visit, and more points if they subscribe to a magazine from me, and 2) at a certain number, I get a scholarship, which sounded to me like reduced tuition at a community college.

I thought sure, why not, I can renew a subscription for a magazine I already take. So I picked out a computer gaming magazine that I need to renew (coincidentally, I had received the renewal information recently), and he wrote up the sales ticket. He presented the bill - 2 years renewal for... $225.

I was shocked - how can 2 years of a magazine be $225?! I had a renewal for the very same magazine upstairs, and it was $35. That is one enormous markup! I looked closer at the receipt and under "number of issues" he had written 120. So I asked if I was getting a decade-long renewal - 120 magazines is 10 years worth. He flipped through the booklet and said no, that is how many issues come out in 2 years. 60 issues per year.

This was of course surprising, as 5 issues a month is more often than a weekly magazine. Plus, I know the magazine in question only comes out once a month. We went back and forth on this, he insisted that according to the subscription information he had in his booklet, that particular magazine was published 60 times a year.

I felt a little bad. I did want to subscribe through him - I'm not sure if the story about a scholarship is true, but on the off chance it was, I wanted to help him reach his goal. On the other hand, there was no way I was spending $225 to renew a magazine that was $35 to renew straight from the publisher.

So I told him I didn't have $225 for a magazine subscription, and I'd need to find another one. I eventually found another computer magazine I could renew, for $60 a year. This of course works out to buying the magazine at the newsstand, but again I figured I could at least do that - even though the regular subscription would be half as much.

The final total came to $68 ($8 processing free - another ripoff). We'll see if the subscription actually gets renewed. In some ways I mentally wrote this off as a very elaborate donation to charity - half to the charity, and half to my magazine subscription. That's cool, I can live with that.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Dingbat Coworker

So the buzz up and down the halls at work has been job hunting - two coworkers found jobs with other groups, rather than accepting the relocation. I understand, since they have family and kids and stuff, but I think that it is just a band-aid on the situation - who knows what relocation demands will come up after the merger. Also, the QA group is looking at joining another team en-masse, which would be good as basically three out of four of them will leave the company if it doesn't happen.

Then there is me... the only person from this site that is seriously considering relocation. My local coworkers are both happy and sad: happy I'd stay with the company, but sad I'd move away. My remote coworkers are seem enthusiastic, and sell the area every chance they get.

One of my local coworkers (who switched to another group) stopped by to chat and ask how things were going. My office desk is covered with various real estate pamphlets, newspaper excerpts, Orlando area maps I've printed, etc. so I think it is fairly obvious I am leaning towards relocation. This person asked if I wanted the name of a recruiter that another former coworker used. I said sure, send me the info, mostly just thinking that I could delete the mail.

Well, this person sent mail, copying the recruiter, myself, and about five other people in the company. Um.... send me the info, or at worst mail me and copy the recruiter. Don't mail half the group! Maybe I'm hung up on appearences but this qualifies as Dingbat Coworker (DC) move #1. The recruiter mailed me, and I haven't responded yet - I should probably politely tell him thanks but I really don't need the help (more on this another day).

My second-line manager was in town, and offered to take us all out to happy-hour again. She did this two weeks ago when the news broke. She's really cool and is also quite upbeat on Orlando. At the table where we were all sitting, the aforementioned DC decided to ask across the table, if I got the info from the recruiter. I stared for a bit, and answered in a fairly even voice, that yes I did but wouldn't be contacting him. I'm not sure who heard, but to me, this was dingbat move #2 - I answered but what I really wanted to do is break a plate over the DC's head. What in the !@#$&* was the DC thinking?

Later, I had dinner with Davis, another friend and coworker. His take on this was that the DC sent mail out in such a large fashion to stake a claim on any referral fees the recruiter might give. In my little fantasy world, such fees would cover the cost of surgically removing the ceramic shards of the plate I broke over DC's skull. ;)

I sent off a few questions concerning relocation to my HR contact, so I'll see what she says tomorrow. I'm estimating I'm around 90% likely to move.

Investment Club

This month's meeting was moved from Valentine's Day, as a few of the couples protested the conflict.

Our big business item to discuss was how to cash out members that want to depart! For various reasons, four members are leaving, due to family (newborns) and other time considerations. Unfortunately, those four members also include all of the founders of the club. So we remaining members talked about the future of the investment club and what we wanted to get out of it. None of us are quite sure how to continue - in one sense, starting from scratch is easy because the entire focus is finding stocks to buy. We're at the point where we can't really buy a new stock every month or every other month, so the club would need to shift into maintenance mode. All of us agree that isn't as interesting. So while everyone feels as though they have learned some useful methodology for picking stocks, and everyone thinks perhaps learning to maintain the portfolio would also be useful, interest is waning.

This is all a bit surreal, because four of the members that remain (myself included) are relatively new - members for six months or less. Plus, due to my outstanding relocation question, I might very well be a departing member next month! I didn't bring up that possibility at this time...

The club is twelve members, and as I mentioned, four are leaving. Actually, that could be five as one more has moved away and doesn't really participate anymore. Plus, if I move away, I would also depart and then only six members would remain - three of those would be newbies. So there is some question about the viability of the club going forward, but we can worry about that later. We decided to run the club for the rest of the year, largely because by operating in January and February, we already have to file taxes for 2005. ;)

The four that are leaving comprise nearly 50% of the club's holdings, so we need to figure out how to pay them out. As President, I'm in charge of floating various proposals, with the goal of having something ironed out by our next meeting so we can approve it. Another motive for me to do this is to see how my leaving will affect the club - very little, as far as the holdings. I haven't been in very long and whatever I invested can be easily paid back out of the cash holdings.

We'll have to sell several holdings to raise the proper cash to pay off the departees. That will be a three step process:

  • Keep a few of the best stocks, get rid of the rest.
  • Transfer entire holdings over to the departing members, and make up difference from our cash position.
  • Transfer stock to remaining members, to stay within the club guideline of no one member owning more than 20% of the club's portfolio.

That club guideline about not holding more than 20% is interesting, as it obviously requires a minimum of five members in the club. The club might very well hit that limit next month! Another longer-term member expressed indifference about whether the club continues, so he might very well want to leave. I suppose that is to be expected, when all of the founders of a club leave, and take a major chunk of the holdings.

So I'll be crunching some numbers in the upcoming days and sending info to our mailing list. Using a spreadsheet I've found various combinations of stocks that add up to roughly 90% of the amount we need to cash each member out - assuming five people depart (including the absentee member), they'll each get transferred two stocks, plus a bit of cash. That will reduce our holdings from 15 stocks to 5 stocks!

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Hockey Hope

There is the slightest glimmer of hope in salvaging the 2004-2005 hockey season. I think at this point, with the time pressure, whatever agreement they come up with will just be a band-aid on the issues that divide the players and management. So maybe something tentative can be reached now, with the expectation that there will more negotiations in the off season.

The league is considering a 28 game season, followed by playoffs. If it happens, that would mean 7 games per person in my season-ticket pool. Half of those would be away games, so I'd expect tickets to 3 or 4 home games. Some of those games would be difficult to attend, but if I'm lucky I'd get one weekend game and a Thursday or Friday game. We'll see... I have one floating holiday I need to use up before April, so maybe that can be a hockey day.

One thing about relocating to Orlando is NHL hockey would be closer - the Tampa Bay Lightning would be 80 miles away. The Vancouver Canucks are about 140 miles away... in another country! ;)


Two bits of info:

  • The format will be 14 home-and-away games, meaning every other Western Conference team will visit Vancouver once.

  • The players have until 11:00 am EST tomorrow (Feb 16th) to accept, otherwise as of 1:00 pm EST tomorrow, the season is cancelled.
  • Valentine's Day

    Not much exciting Valentine's news to report, other than flying diagonally across the U.S. from Orlando to Seattle.

    On the way, I read the USA Today and amidst all the jewelry ads and other marketing reminders, I saw an interesting article called Singled Out By Society's Stare. Apparently, divorce has become so mainstream that it is more acceptable to be divorced than single-and-never-married. The reasons for this are ironic (demonstrated ability to commit) and humorous (no confusion about sexual orientation).

    Wow - it is truly a topsy-turvy world we live in! I suppose that is good to hear, as I am in that category, but it does seem a bit depressing from an overall viewpoint. The article mentioned a QuirkyAlone site, and on the site I took the QuirkyAlone quiz.

    I scored "somewhat quirkyalone", also known as "quirkytogether".

    Monday, February 14, 2005

    Valentine's Limerick

    I received a very nice Hallmark web card from a very lovely lady, and I wanted to send one back. But, I couldn't just send a reply... I decided to put some effort into writing a limerick to enclose!

    I've written more limericks in the time I've been on Orkut than ever before in my life. For me, the best ones are slightly personalized - mentioning an event that occured, or some information they've shared with me. If possible, the limerick should have a flirty tone, or at least have a funny ending line - humorous tone is key. In this case, my friend told me of a dinner she had with another guy, where they went to a pizza place and had calzones. Also, she really enjoys fireplaces, especially on cold winter nights. So with all that in mind, I came up with:

    Before Valentine's Day does expire
    I hope that you get your desire
    A tasty calzone
    And a man of your own
    To curl up with in front of the fire!

    The rhyme scheme of a limerick is AABBA, and the typical meter is 8-8-5-5-8.

    I write a limerick by either: 1) thinking of an A line, and then looking at rhymes using a rhyming dictionary, or 2) thinking of the BB lines and filling in the rest, using the rhyming dictionary. Often in case 2, the last A line will easily follow the BB lines. Since the BB lines are short, there are more restrictions on what they can be, so it helps me to iron those out first. In any case, it really helps me to see a list of rhyming words. As I look through the list, I can think of sentence fragments, and work them into the right form.


    I had a choice today of cruising west to Tampa, or east to Daytona Beach. I thought Tampa deserved more than just a day trip, so I went to Daytona Beach instead.


    No beach in sight... it is another six miles or so. This sign is on a pedestrian bridge that leads to the Daytona International Speedway parking lot. It is absolutely enormous, each grandstand is gigantic. I guess this makes sense as the track is a 2.5 mile oval and the entire facility can seat a total of 168,000 people.

    Sand Sign

    Thank goodness for this warning - I would never have suspected! OK, all joking aside - apparently Daytona allows cars to drive on the beach in some areas. I'm sure every once in a while someone gets stuck in a dune and needs to be towed out. This of course should be as humiliating as possible for the affected person.

    Atlantic Ocean

    Just me and the birds in this section. In another six to eight weeks, this area will probably be crushed under a sea of humanity - students on their spring break.

    Saturday, February 12, 2005

    Lake Eola

    Today was beautiful weather and I decided to drive around the area. First, I went out west to Clermont, to see Lake Minneola and drive along part of the bike course of the Great Floridian triathlon. I heard there were rolling hills in this area, a marked contrast to the general flatness of Orlando. After a bit of time in the area, I would have to agree - the rolling hills reminded me a bit of the area around Enumclaw and the Cascades Edge/Black Diamond triathlons, for Washington area people.

    Then, I lounged around downtown Orlando, and walked around Lake Eola and the surrounding area. I wanted to scout out area a bit because a few coworkers said it was a nice and developing neighborhood.

    Garden at Lake Eola


    In the platform to the left, a happy couple was getting married and taking lots of photos. Maybe I'll be in the background of a few of them. ;)

    Lake Eola Fountain

    This fountain looks like a flying saucer!

    Traffic Circle Fountain

    A cute fountain in the middle of a traffic circle. This part of Orlando has cobblestone roads.

    Lake Eola reminds me of Green Lake in Seattle. Green Lake is bigger and has more park space, while Lake Eola has more businesses surrouding it (since it is downtown), but basically both lakes look like very popular recreation spots. The lake was currently "drawn down" (as a flyer announced) for maintenance, but it was still scenic.

    Friday, February 11, 2005

    Orlando Real Estate

    I've been studying real estate listings, and drove around a bit today.

  • This area has a ton of lakes. It is surprising how many homes have lake views, lake access, or are on a lake, until I looked at the Orlando, FL map and see that there are just a bunch of lakes around.

  • Real estate here crosses the entire range of prices. There are downtown condos in the mid $500's, lakefront homes in the country (halfway out to Daytona Beach) in the mid $150's, and a lot in between. For about 75% of what my home in Kirkland, WA costs, I could have a slighly larger lakefront home in Clermont, FL, a few miles west of Orlando. (I just mention Clermont as it is a hotbed of triathlon activity). Or, nestle into some gated master planned communities west of the airport.

  • I've been looking and mapping, and it seems a lot of new construction is in the southeast part of the city... towards the theme parks. I'm pretty sure I don't want to get tied up in that kind of traffic (!!) so I'll be searching more to the north.

  • I drove out to see some new townhomes near work. I walked through the models, and I have to say, I do enjoy looking at real estate. Especially model homes, where everything is decorated to perfection. Makes me think, I wonder how much extra for all the furniture and artwork that is so carefully chosen and displayed?

  • I also drove through a community near Lake Baldwin. It took a bit longer to get there than I'd like my commute to be, so while I might visit the sales office tomorrow, I won't really consider it. The community is a mix of homes, townhomes, and condos, plus a "downtown" shopping area, with planned open spaces and parks. So far, it is mid-construction and looks like a movie set - especially the faux downtown area, which isn't yet complete, but has what looks like empty store fronts, ready for businesses. It could be nice in a theme-park-facade looking kind of way, when it is completed...
  • Decision: 2005

    Earlier today, Dave IM'ed and sent a link to some great pictures he created, which were fantastic. I checked Gail's blog and saw an entry on this as well.

    Anyway, some background. Here I am near Queenstown, NZ, standing near a funny sign:

    Funny Sign
    Originally uploaded by klbarrus.
    Funny sign

    Dave managed to take the original pic, and transform it using his obviously top-notch photoshopping skills.

    Decision 2005

    I love it, what a creative sense of humor! Plus, the mouse ears look great. ;)

    Thursday, February 10, 2005

    TSA Search

    I flew to Orlando today, opting to take the daytime flight instead of the red-eye I usually prefer for flying east. When I opened by luggage, I found a little insert courtesy the Transportation Security Administration: "Notice of Baggage Inspection". I packed my Garmin Forerunner and Polar Heart Rate Monitor - I wonder if either of these items looked suspicious on the x-ray machine? I have one of those TSA-approved locks, so they didn't have to break the lock at least.

    On the way I thought more of renting out my house, if I relocate. It will come down to a balance between:

    • what I might sell the house for
    • what I might rent the house for
    • what my mortgage in Orlando will be
    • if I want to deal with being an absentee landlord
    • what chance I might have of returning

    I bought a book, The Landlord's Troubleshooter, and started to read it a bit. There is a chapter on property management companies, which I skimmed (hey it was late and I had to pack), and so far, I'm thinking being a landlord might be more hassle than I'm willing to deal with.

    Wednesday, February 09, 2005

    Move Thoughts

    So I've been thinking of what to do, weighing the options. Orlando is a bit of an unknown, but my two previous visits for work did leave me with a neutral or positive feeling. Not exactly a ringing endorsement, but in my previous visits I wasn't really thinking about the Orlando metro area as a place to move to.

    I've thought about what I would miss from this area, and it boils down to friends and snowboarding. I do like the mountains, forests, lakes, and streams, but the fact is I only get out and hike, backpack, or raft about once a year. Most of my everyday hobbies and interests would travel to Florida, except snowboarding. Even that I only do between six or eight times a season...

    I have no family in this area, or any other attachments, so that isn't a concern for me. I'm almost seeing the relocation as a small adventure - I can try it out, and if I don't like Orlando, I can try to come back.

    Because of that, I've been thinking of leasing my house instead of selling it. Real estate in this area appreciates very well. Microsoft is a large area employer and they are planning to expand by thousands of employees. It would be tragic if I sold my house, didn't like Orlando, and found I couldn't afford to move back in two years. ;) Also, I've made some improvements to the property I'm not sure I'd make that back just yet, since I've only lived here two years. Actually, two years will be towards the end of next month. If I decide to sell I'm not doing it until I've been here two years, for tax purposes.

    But leasing might be a lot of work. I have so many questions, from how to handle utilities, home insurance, screen renters, handle home maintenance, how property management companies can help, etc. I think I might talk to some realtor friends and see what they think.

    My company set me up on an "exploratory" visit, this weekend. I leave on Thursday and return on Monday. While I'm there I'll just drive around to try to narrow down where I might want to live, and see if I like the area. That's a pretty tall order for such a short time! Plus, I'm pretty slow searching for real estate - I looked for nearly a year before deciding on my current home. I have another house hunting trip to take later, for that specific purpose.

    Tuesday, February 08, 2005

    Psychological Angle

    I'm not a psychologist, and all I had in college was an undergrad class. What I remember best was the section on Elisabeth Kubler Ross, who wrote On Death and Dying. In that book, she laid out a theory of grief, that people handle it by passing through several stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. Others have applied these stages to more general situations.

    If I were to apply her stages to my situation (not to make it more serious than it really is) I would say I've skipped anger and bargaining, and am currently somewhere between depression and acceptance. Leaning more towards acceptance.

    Sunday, February 06, 2005

    Rainy Bike Ride

    Unlike yesterday, this morning was overcast, cool, and drizzly. It took me a few extra minutes to get all my stuff together, and I was about 15 or 20 minutes late - I feel bad about that because the toughest thing about group training events is getting everybody out the door. We met at Bella Botega in Redmond, and by the time we were all ready to roll it was 9:30.

    The five of us (Brian, Rod, Eve, Francesca, myself) settled into a nice pace on the Sammamish River Trail. We followed the SRT across the top of Lake Washington, then joined the Burke Gilman trail, and followed it to the University of Washington. From UW, we veered off across the Montlake bridge and through various quiet neighborhood streets, making our way to Leschi park along the lake. So far, the rain was spotty and light - just a few drops here and there, or nothing at all. Still, after riding in the cold we were all looking forward to a coffee stop.

    At this point, we had ridden 26.1 miles in about 1 hour 40 minutes. It was great having a warm drink and pastry, but unfortunately, the rain picked up while we were taking a break. Brian didn't have a rain jacket so we crossed the street to visit a triathlon store, Triumph Multisports, where he bought one. We resumed our ride... for about 1 minute, as Eve flatted her rear tire almost immediately.

    There isn't much you can do to help someone change a flat on a bike, except hold the bike steady or keep track of small items (valve caps, tools). We all gathered in the entryway of a small grocery store, to get a bit of shelter from the drizzle. Eve changed her tire and had trouble reseating the wheel - it just would not fit back into the dropout properly. All of us looked and took turns checking for anything that would interfere: misaligned brake, skewed fender, chain caught on something, etc. None of us could figure it out, so we went back to Triumph Multisports where the clerk put the bike up on a stand and found the problem - an extra spring on the skewer. These are sometimes added to skewers when you use one in a trainer. Anyway, he was able to seat Eve's rear wheel properly.

    I had two layers on, long sleeve jersey and rain jacket, which is usually enough for me. But today, I was feeling a bit cold so I took the opportunity to try on a De Feet bottom layer long sleeve shirt. It felt so good, I didn't take it off - I just handed the clerk the hangar and told him I was already wearing the product! I paid and we once again started up.

    We rode along Lakeside Blvd , crossing under I-90, and then climbed Lake Washington Blvd to the top, winding through Colman Park. By now, the rain had picked up to become a cold and steady presence. We rode onto the bike/pedestrian path, and made our way across I-90.

    Unfortunately, bike mechanical issues now struck Francesca, as her front tire flatted. Eve and I pulled up next to Francesca and provided moral support (as I mentioned, there isn't much you can do to help, other than keep track of small items), as the rain fell harder and harder. Cars whizzed by just on the other side of the waist-high concrete barrier, so it was loud. Drainage wasn't good so there was a pool of water right next to the wall... but the alternative was leaning up against the open-air grillwork above the lake, and getting splashed by cyclists who would then be forced to steer through the puddles. While we were huddled together, I said "Not to be rude, but I hope this doesn't happen to me!". My attempted humor fell a little flat as we were all shivering. I was really glad I bought that extra layer at the bike shop.

    We started pedaling again, and met up with Brian and Rod at a park on Mercer Island. By this time, we had been out for almost four hours. I noticed my toes and fingers were getting a bit numb. This was easy to explain as my gloves were soaked. Eve joked she could milk her fingers for water, and Francesca added she was just wearing her outer gloves for show as they were drenched.

    So we continued towards Factoria, through heavier rainfall and large puddles, until we gathered again at the bottom of a long hill climb. We started the climb together, but quickly spread apart. I lost sight of Brian and Rod around a corner, and soon Eve put some distance on me. Not that we were racing or anything, I knew they would wait at the top - I was just wishing that I were up with them, so I'd be done climbing the hill sooner. ;) I glanced to make sure Francesca was there (i.e. no bike trouble) and just kept grinding along, glad my training bike has a triple chainring. I'd glance up the road, glance at the water streaming to the side of the road, glance behind me, just thinking about getting to the top of the hill.

    We regrouped again, and wound our way through the neighborhood just west of Lake Sammamish. I've done some runs there, and recognized Weowna park and Phantom Lake. As I whizzed down a nice hill, one that I'm usually running up in the other direction, I realized my fingers were numb. I was having trouble shifting, and with my hands on the brake hoods I couldn't feel the brake levers! We had split into two groups: Brian, Rod, and Eve up ahead; Francesca and I were trailing by a few minutes. We were caught by a light but the other group waited for us at a gas station near Crossroads.

    By now we were close to finishing the loop. I was hungry and wanted to eat part of a Clif bar I had in my jersey pocket, but that would have meant stopping for a few minutes to open my rain jacket and get it. Doing that would make everyone wait, or would mean falling behind... and I wasn't sure I could open the wrapper since my fingers were numb. I decided to just grind it out since it wouldn't be too much longer.

    We rode along 160th Ave to Bel-Red, where we split: Francesca veered off left up Bel-Red - I assume she parked her car at work - while the rest of us turned right and down the hill. After a nice long coast, the road leveled out and I continued to Marymoor park where I found the others waiting for me. We got back on the SRT and soon enough we were back at Bella Botega.

    It was now 3:00 - we had been out for around 5 hours and 30 minutes! According to my stopwatch, the ride time was approximately 3 hours 20 minutes, so we had another 2 hours 10 minutes at the coffee stop and fixing various mechanical issues. Total ride distance was about 47.5 miles.

    I was so cold, I had a hard time packing my stuff up because I was shivering constantly. My fingers were so numb I struggled to remove my bike helmet. Heck, just getting my key into the car door was a challenge. In the car, I drank the extra bottle of sports drink I mixed in advance, which helped take the edge off my hunger. Once back home, I jumped into a hot shower and just stood there for 15 minutes, thinking about something to eat.

    Francesca called while I was in the shower and left a message: "I bet this ride convinces you to move to Orlando!"

    The Route

    epic ride

    Around mile 32 is the climb in Factoria. Around mile 42 is the nice downhill along Bel-Red.

    Things To Do

    I met my friend Kathy for a run this morning, and we chatted about all sorts of stuff, including what we did and didn't like about this area. After the run, I told her about my relocation dilemma - she pointed out it was coincidental we talked about area likes and dislikes. Like many others, she suggested I make a list of pros and cons. I'll work on that...

    Instead, I thought of things I wanted to do in this area, but never did. Maybe I can knock a few out, should I decide to leave.

    • Whale Watching

      Nearby Seattle you can look for orcas. Peak season for orcas is May to September - one company has a handy chart. You can also look for gray whales, from mid-March to mid-April.

    • Seattle Underground Tour

      The original downtown kept flooding, so the streets were raised. Or, something like that. I'm not sure because I haven't taken the tour yet. ;)

    • Sky City Restaurant (Space Needle)

      Yes, I've heard the food is way overpriced and mediocre. But, I'd still like to eat there and have the beautiful view. I have been in the Space Needle, but that was before I was a resident! I visited in 1994 and went to the observation deck, and never went back since I moved here.

    • Sailing at Green Lake

      Green Lake is a small lake, but large enough for small craft (one or two people) sailing. I always wanted to take out one of the boats, but never got around to doing it. This is especially embarrasing as I lived within easy walking distance of Green Lake and the boats for six years.

    • Spirit of Washington Dinner Train

      This is a cute couples thing to do, so that explains why I never did it. The train also has murder mystery events, magic shows, and other special events.

    • Watch Singles and Sleepless in Seattle.

      Yes, I've seen both movies, but not while living in the area! I think it would be fun to catch a glimpse of a local site.

    • Hike/snowshoe to Camp Muir on Mt. Rainier

      Camp Muir is a great place for a summit attempt. I'm not at all interested in doing that, but I would like to hike/snowshoe to the camp and back. I'd prefer to go with an experienced guide, and my friend best suited to this moved away years ago.

    Thursday, February 03, 2005

    Relocation Question Again

    Last summer, when I was visiting the Orlando area for work, the subject of relocation arose. It has come up again, in a much more tangible way. In essence, most of my group is facing consolidation with our HQ, which is in Heathrow, a few miles north of Orlando. That of course includes me!

    First was an announcement and general meeting. Afterwards, we met individually with a senior level manager and a representative from HR, to discuss any questions. My meeting went well - the HR representative handed me a folder with common information and a letter covering my specifics, which was the relocation offer. Outside of these individual meetings, we all had hushed discussions in the hallway, nobody sure what to think. The news will take a while to settle in.

    The relocation package looks pretty comprehensive. What is intimidating is the enormity of moving across the country, should I decide to relocate - details like cancelling utilities, to house hunting in the new location, to backing out of clubs and activities, to making new friends, and so forth.

    Another option is to look for another job within the company, and try to remain here in the Seattle area. I'm not sure how easy it would be to stay in this area, as most open positions are actually at company HQ in Mountain View, CA. That would require finding a group willing to let me work at a remote site. Bottom line - finding another job within the company would likely involve a relocation anyway. The last option is to find another job altogether... which I am reluctant to do: I'm not sure how good the job market is, and besides, I do like my job.

    I am supposed to go to Whistler this weekend to snowboard/ski with friends, but now I'm thinking I'll just skip it and send them a check to cover my part of the condo rental and food, and veg out instead. I need to contemplate the future. My company wants an answer about relocation in a month, and would like to have the relocation completed in two months. However, I think I could get a few extra weeks leeway on the final move, just because of all the work involved in putting a house on the market. So there is time, but not too much.

    NZ Dinner

    My friends Shaula and Darrin received my postcard my New Zealand, and wanted to meet for dinner and hear about my trip. As it turns out, they are traveling to Australia and wanted to know about the feasibility of squeezing in a week or 10 days in New Zealand.

    I told them all about the trip, and I think I did such a good job selling New Zealand, they decided to skip it this year and make a separate trip! They just returned from six months in Europe, and are methodical travellers - they like to have plenty of time to see everything and not feel rushed. They are planning on three weeks to one month in Australia, and were considering shortening that to make time for New Zealand.

    But, not any more! I think I convinced them that is wasn't possible to squeeze in Rotorua, Wellington, Queenstown and Milford Sound, Fox and Franz Josef Glacier, in 10 days or less.

    Tuesday, February 01, 2005

    MSN Search

    Today MSN Search debuted. It has been around for several months, in beta, and today it officially went live.


    I thought I'd check MSN out again, by searching for me!

    First, it suggested I might be looking for karl barrys... ummm no, not really. After that, for the next few pages, were indeed references to me. A interview puzzle and general brain teaser page. Race results. Comments I've made on other blogs. Posts I made in a cryptography interest group (back when I was a student and apparently had a lot of time). Overall, pretty good, and somewhere around page 3 or 4 the results tail off.

    For the heck of it, I tried an image search at MSN on myself, but found nothing.


    Next up, I tried good old Google.

    First, Google didn't suggest I misspelled anything. So, extra points for them!

    Google also nicely found my blogger profile as the first result. Why only the profile and not my blog, I'm not sure, since after all, Google owns Blogspot. More comments on blogs, old crypto stuff, a reference to volunteer editing at VIE (inside a PDF - good search results!), my antenna applet... the results are consistently me until around page 7 or 8. Pretty good!

    I also tried an image search. I do have several pictures on various websites, but as far as I know, I haven't done anything in particular to make them extra visible to search engines (as in stuff my name into the picture metadata, etc.)

    To my surprise, an image search actually finds one image of me, and my friend Akila, from a visit to the Bay Area I made last year. Akila and I were grad students buddies, and have kept in touch over the years.


    I also tried Yahoo! Search.

    This one gets lots of extra points for actually finding my home page as the first result. Granted, there isn't a much there, as I've found maintaining a blog to be more fun. :) Also, my domain is registered through Yahoo! so that might help somehow. More crypto, puzzles, race results, VIE stuff, results inside a PDF. This search finds more blog entries I've made. Yahoo! Search also finds references to me on - is another social networking site, which has a few nice features over Orkut. For example, you automatically get a homepage on dotnode, and Yahoo! Search found references to me in other people friend's lists.

    Nothing turned up on the Image Search for me.

    Overall, I was quite surprised by the relevancy and quality of the Yahoo! Search results, as far as searching for me. Google and Yahoo! search inside PDF's, while it does not appear that MSN does. I'll keep trying out all these search engines, but right now I think Google and Yahoo have an edge over MSN, in my hugely unscientific analysis of search results for me.

    Cell Phone Jamming

    My friend Tom invited me over for dinner with his family. Since I'm never one to turn down a dinner invitiation ;) I went, bringing along a pie and some leftover homemade ice cream. As much as I like the ice cream, I also like to share it and not be the only person consuming how ever much I made!

    Tom and his family are fans of 24 so we settled in to watch the episode. His daughter Elyse pointed out that CTU should invest some money into cell-phone jamming technology, as part of the plot (in every season so far) involves a mole or double-agent on the inside, who uses their cell phone to call outside with crucial information.

    One amusing article I read described a church in Monterrey, Mexico that started to jam cell phones so as to not disturb their services. Certainly the CTU could get a few in and make it harder for the double-agents to do their work!