The Sledgehammer – Version 2.0

July 29, 2010

A Change of Scenery

Filed under: Random Stuff — Brian Lutz @ 1:14 am

For the past five years, this is roughly the view that I have had out my bedroom window when I woke up in the mornings.  All things considered, there are plenty of worse things than this that one could have than a decent sized field of well-maintained grass outside the window, but it’s certainly not the type of view you’d exactly be seeking out.  The big tree and the surrounding buildings also have a bit of a tendency to block out a lot of the light that might otherwise reach the window, which ultimately left this place frequently lacking in the sunlight department.  Eventually you get used to this though, and before long this view tends to fade out into the background, being further obscured by the shades and curtains surrounding the window.

This is even more the case when looking out the window of the den on the other side of the building, with its somewhat less-than-inspiring views of the parking lot.  I will say that during the Springtime those bushes did produce some nice looking orange and pink flowers to provide at least some occasional color that didn’t come in the form of auto paint (or the occasional red-and-blue lights of a police officer pulling over some random speeder on 148th, as this seems to be a popular spot for this type of thing), but once again, there just wasn’t a whole lot to see out there.  Needless to say, during the time that I lived here I didn’t exactly make a habit of spending a bunch of time staring out the windows.  I suspect that this won’t be the case with the new place that I just moved into on Saturday. 

Attending an Elders Quorum in my church provides no shortage of opportunities to move people in and out of houses and apartments of various sizes, so I’ve got a fair bit of experience with this type of thing, although I haven’t exactly made a habit of packing up all my stuff and moving on a regular basis (or much at all, for that matter) so this was a bit of a new experience in that regard.  Fortunately I had plenty of help from my Dad, my brothers Jared and Terence, and a friend who inexplicably thought it would be fun to haul my stuff around for several hours on a Saturday morning.  To be honest, I still have a fair bit of stuff that I still need to unpack (as I had suspected and/or feared, my carefully concocted floor plan I had spent hours devising went out the proverbial window the minute I actually got into the place, so I have to do a bit more planning and/or returning back to the drawing board to do before I finalize things) but the vast majority of my stuff made it here in one piece, and the process of settling into the new place is well underway.  I have also managed to get rid of the two big items that I don’t have room  for here (the big Ikea desk in the den, which I intend to replace with a similar yet much smaller one, and the arcade cabinet) which takes care of my two biggest worries related to the move.  I’ve still got a fair bit of work to do here (and a relatively small amount of final cleanup on the other end) before everything’s completed, but at least I can see it from here.

The move was not without its casualties though.  I am actually typing this post on an el cheapo keyboard obtained from one of the local Fred Meyer stores at about 10:00 a couple of evenings ago.  For some inexplicable reason my big fancy Logitech G11 keyboard decided to stop recognizing a few small but surprisingly vital keystrokes, rendering the whole thing basically useless.  At some point I need to get another decent keyboard, but that might be a while off.  In the meantime, I still have a fair bit of unpacking that needs to be done, and a few things that I still need to get (including a new desk to replace the old one that I have now sold off),  but I’d like to think I’ve made at least some decent progress on getting settled in.  Right now, it’s looking like the big issue here is going to be storage space though.    I think I’ve found places for most of the stuff now, but apparently whoever designed this place decided that little cabinets look better than big ones, so that leaves a few less hiding places for things than I’d really like.  There’s definitely going to be a bit of adjusting required here, but then again, I do also have this view out the windows:

I’d say I can probably put up with an inconvenience or two for a view like that.  If nothing else, it’s a bit of an improvement over looking at a parking lot all day.

July 22, 2010

Moving Up and Moving On

Filed under: Random Stuff — Brian Lutz @ 1:48 am

One of the things you might have noted about me if you’ve been reading this Blog for long enough is that for better or for worse, I tend to get myself attached to things.  This is perhaps the singlemost reason that I spent a decade (and, all things considered, at least three years longer than I should have) driving a beat-up old ’84 Toyota Camry in spite of being able to (usually) afford a better car.  Actually, at that point I’m pretty sure just about anything this side of a 24 Hours of LeMons paddock would probably have been an improvement, to be perfectly honest.  Of course, it’s only been a little more than three years since I finally sent it off to the farm to go live with all the other Camrys (I’ll keep telling myself that, thank you very much) but by now it all seems a world away.  On at least one occasion that car was written up on some sort of a “May be living in vehicle” citation (it’s a long story really) and I’m pretty sure I can still recite from memory a laundry list of the various ailments that car had become afflicted by in its advanced age, but somehow, in spite of it all, I found myself inordinately attached to that car.

Several years later, I find myself in the process of moving out of the apartment that I have spent the past five years in.  Yet in spite of my tendencies, I don’t seem to feel any particular attachment to this place.  I don’t think there’s been anything particularly memorable for good or bad that has happened here in the past five years unless you count the two instances of leaking pipes from upstairs, and I don’t think either of those ever made it much past being a bit of an inconvenience.  It actually has been a pretty decent place to live, even if the appliances are a bit old, the ceiling leaks every so often and the neighbors have the occasional tendency to crank up the volume on their Mariachi music every so often (which, all things considered, is still better than some of the alternatives.)  I might put a qualifier or two on a recommendation for this place, but I wouldn’t hesitate to provide one if someone was looking for an apartment around here.  And yet, when it’s all said and done, ultimately it’s all just a bunch of walls and a few appliances.  As I’ve said before, five years in one place that I don’t own seems like just about the right amount of time, and one way or another, it’s time to move on. 

It actually would have been rather easy for me to just decide to stay put, have my rent actually decrease again (not quite as drastic a rent reduction as it was when I renewed last year, but a decrease nonetheless) and go on living my reasonably comfortable yet somewhat mundane existence without having to worry about moving for at least another year.  And yet even as I made that decision a year ago I was pretty sure it would be for only one more year, and then one way or another I would be looking for a new place to live.  As that year has elapsed and I do move on from this place, I find myself in very different circumstances than I was in a year ago, and in many ways this move represents a move up as well as a move on (if for no other reason than the fact that I’m seven stories higher off the ground in my new place than in my current one.)  Somehow I suspect the hustle and bustle of urban living may take just a bit of getting used to after spending the last fifteen or so in a relatively quiet suburban existence, but Downtown Bellevue still isn’t quite THAT urban, at least not yet. 

One of the main reasons I could never live in Seattle is that in a lot of places, it’s just plain too crowded there.  Nowhere is this more in evidence than in the Northgate North development next to Northgate Mall.  Even though this particular place is well outside of Seattle’s urban core, they still found it necessary to stick basically an entire strip mall with 4 anchor store spaces and all the parking for it into two city blocks, and the result is, to put it bluntly, a mess. And the area they put this into isn’t even all that dense, all things considered. I could see something like this working (sort of) if you were putting in the Pike/Pine area of downtown, but there’s no real reason to build something that dense, especially when there was a significant amount of vacant space next door when it was built.  This whole project just seems like density for the sake of density, and it doesn’t really fit the neighborhood it’s located in. 

Downtown Bellevue, for all its faults, still has a relatively small urban core, and has also allowed for a lot more open space than Downtown Seattle.  This means that the parks in Downtown Bellevue actually have grass instead of paving stones (Downtown Park in Bellevue is one of my favorite places to go out for a walk on a nice sunny day,) there are actual grocery stores within the Downtown area, and if I ever start to feel just a little too crowded there, I don’t have to go far to find much bigger open spaces.  The location I am moving to also comes with really easy access to buses and almost direct access to I-405, which should allow me to dodge most of the major traffic chokepoints in downtown.

For better or for worse, this is going to turn out to be a rather significant change for me, something I’ve probably had a lot less of in the past few years than I really should.  To be perfectly honest, I am still not entirely sure that I am not making some horrible mistake by doing this, but I think I can make it work out… for a while, anyway.  They say that the only thing that is constant in life is change, but every once in a while it does become necessary to help the process along a bit.  Now if I could just stop writing long enough to finish packing stuff…

July 18, 2010

Photo Dump: But is it Art?

Filed under: Random Stuff — Brian Lutz @ 12:24 am

Bit of a sudden stop there?

Still knee-deep in packing up stuff and getting ready to move, and at the same time trying to fight off a couple of projects at work that just keep rising from the dead every time I think I finally manage to get them finished off.  Since I’m pretty sure most of you out there are starting to get sick of everything here being related to moving, I’ll just throw out a few more random photos I’ve got on my phone from the last couple of weeks, complete with the requisite snarky commentary.   As usual, you’ll find these after the jump.  Remember, once I’m settled into my new place I’m going to be living a block from the Bellevue Library, which should make it a lot easier to get over there and spend time in the newspaper archives.  In the meantime, you’ll find the rest of this stuff after the jump.

(more…)

July 14, 2010

There’s a World Beneath Your Feet

Filed under: Random Stuff — Brian Lutz @ 1:28 am

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

By all accounts, my soon-to-be new neighborhood is supposed to be a pretty fashionable place.  In addition to the large selection of designer labels on offer at Bellevue Square and the Bravern, there’s also a whole annual Bellevue Fashion Week complete with gala events, runway shows and plenty of glamour and glitz to go around.  In short, it seems to be the type of place where one might find it necessary to dress up every once in a while.  Although I don’t expect to find myself dropping big bucks on big labels anytime soon, even back when the idea that I might live in Downtown seemed little more than a delusion of grandeur (to be honest, I’m still not so sure it isn’t) I started getting the feeling that I could use to start moving my wardrobe away from the clearance rack and toward something a little bit nicer.  To this end, my two sisters and their husbands were nice enough (and/or desperate enough for me to actually marry someone at some point) to accompany me on a shopping trip this weekend where a fair number of new items of clothing were purchased. 

Among a couple of new pairs of jeans and some shirts was a new pair of shoes.  Compared to the usual cross-trainer style athletic shoes I generally use for daily wear, this particular pair of canvas shoes  (made by True Religion) is obviously intended to be a bit more casual than what I usually wear, but probably still suitable for use in situations where I probably couldn’t get away with wearing the Tevas that serve as my typical Summer footwear choice.  It certainly is a bit of a deviation from my usual wardrobe, but I didn’t think much of it until I decided to wear my new shoes to work yesterday.  When I went out for my usual Noontime walk to grab some lunch, I noticed something a bit unusual:  Suddenly the ground I was walking on had textures to it.  Obviously this shouldn’t be anything particularly odd, as I’m pretty sure I’ve ranted at least once here about Pioneer Square’s mishmash of historic (read: ridiculously uneven and questionably maintained) sidewalks, but while wearing a typical pair of athletic shoes around town, there’s a good chance the only time you’re going to notice the texture of the sidewalk is when you manage to take a misstep and twist your ankle for the umpteenth time.  These new shoes with their comparatively thin suede soles, seemed to actually be thin and flexible enough to transfer some of the various textures of the sidewalk below to the feet inside of them.  It’s one of those things that you never notice until suddenly it’s there.  

Of course, this type of thing isn’t new to some people.  A search on the Internet reveals a number of groups who advocate for a barefoot lifestyle.  After all, if you’re sticking your feet into some heavy pair of thick-soled shoes all the time you’re probably going to miss out on what could be some interesting textures.  It’s also likely that you’ll be missing out on some fun diseases at the same time, but that’s beside the point for now.  In fact, over at Marymoor Park there’s a so-called  Reflexology Path which is intended specifically to provide a place for people to go and practice walking around with bare feet.  It seems that these types of things are actually quite popular over in Europe.  There is a bit of a cottage industry (mostly in Germany, but also elsewhere on the continent) that has formed around so-called barefoot parks designed to provide foot-friendly walking paths with a variety of different terrains and textures to provide different sensations, including muddy paths to trudge through and plenty of water to wade in (admit it, you’ve probably played in the mud a time or two in your day.)  

There seems to be a fair bit of debate going on these days about just how beneficial the act of wearing shoes is in the first place (I’m not going to get into that one,) with some even arguing that all shoes are bad for your feet and legs, period.  If you search around the Internet a bit, you’ll even find a number of groups who advocate just forsaking shoes completely and going barefoot all the time.  While I tend to think that’s a bit extreme (after all, I have my doubts about the cleanliness of some of the sidewalks and floors around here) I find that in some ways, they might actually have a point.  Whatever your beliefs regarding the origins of the Human species, it seems highly unlikely that the presence of big bulky shoes figured too heavily into the original design spec, yet these days it seems to be more the norm in our society than the exception. 

I know a lot of people (especially women) who will take off their shoes pretty much any time can get away with going barefoot.  I suspect that this is mostly a matter of comfort (with some of the atrocities inflicted on the female foot in the name of modern fashion I can’t say I blame them,) but I know of very few guys who would feel comfortable with going barefoot in public, and even less who actually do so.   In fact at times even a pair of relatively reserved sandals can seem just the slightest bit immodest, and I’m sure by now you’ve all heard the obligatory “places where flip-flops should never, never, NEVER be worn” lectures (for those of you unfamiliar with this one, it generally goes something like “Anywhere but the beach”.)  Still, as you walk along the roadways of life, it never hurts to take a bit of time to stop and step on the roses…  Um, wait.  Scratch that.  Actually, that might be rather painful.  And you’ll probably have someone mad at you for stomping all over their prized roses.  But still, every once in a while you just might try finding something besides your shoes to step on.  Who knows?  You might even find something you weren’t expecting down there.

July 11, 2010

Turn It Off Man, It’s Sucking My Will to Live

Filed under: Technology — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 12:13 am

The countdown to my upcoming move stands at two weeks now, and as you might imagine, I am still knee-deep  in the process of putting off all the stuff I really should be doing in preparation.  I haven’t really packed anything yet (I don’t expect that to take nearly as long as it probably will,) I still have to get rid of a bunch of stuff (ping me if you’re interested in a slightly decrepit old arcade cabinet, a gas grill or a coffee table,) and I still have a whole bunch of address changes and cancellations I need to take care of before I move.  I’ve been in the process of (slowly) going through these, and to be perfectly honest, the stuff has been a pain to deal with. 

These days, pretty much all of the address changes are handled online, but for some reason, half of them don’t seem to work.  The Post Office has gotten rid of their paper change-of-address forms and replaced them with some card directing you to a page on their website.  where you fill out the details, get prompted to enter a credit card to ensure that you aren’t presently engaged in some sort of act of Change of Address with Malicious Intent…  And promptly get declined, at which point I was informed that I would have to print out a form and either mail it in or bring it to the post office.   Which I could have done the first time I was at the post office if they hadn’t changed the process so that wasn’t an option.  Isn’t it great to see the promises of the paperless office  we were being given years ago finally coming to fruition?  Next on the agenda was my voter registration.  Once again, I was provided with a link to a nice convenient website that, of course, just happened not to work at all.  This time I was able to pull up my voter registration info, given the option to make a change, then prompted for my driver’s license number, which was once again soundly rejected by the system.  Once again, I was informed that I was going to need to print out a form and mail it in.  So far, I’ve gotten as far as printing out the form, filling it in, realizing I had the new address wrong and shredding the incorrectly filled out form.  Still need to take care of that one.

In addition to the address changes, there’s also been a few cancellations to deal with as well, mainly my landline phone and DSL through what used to be Verizon, but is now some Frontier company that I’ve never heard of.  I’ve actually had five years of mostly trouble-free service from my DSL connection, but the new apartment is serviced by Qwest, meaning that I couldn’t transfer my service.  I’ve also found that at this point I find little reason to keep a landline phone around, and I figure it’s probably as good a time as any to get rid of it and save the $30 or so it’s costing per month to keep it active.  On Friday most people at work were going to be out of the office, so I opted to work from home so I could have some time to take care of a few of these items.  During a pause while waiting on a new build, I made a quick call to whatever the heck the phone company here is supposed to be called these days to set up a cancellation at the end of the month.  A few minutes on hold got me to a customer service rep who was able to set this up, provided a reference number for the call, and I was on my way. 

Two minutes later, my DSL promptly stops working. 

This, obviously, wasn’t what I had intended to happen.  A second call to the phone company was first directed to a rep that apparently had no clue what was going on, then ended up somehow getting transferred to some sort of tech support voice recording, then finally to some vague excuse and an instantaneous hang-up.  In the meantime, I’m still supposed to be working from home, which is rather difficult to do with no Internet connection.  A second call to the Phone Company That Can’t Be Named got me to another customer service rep, who asked a few vague questions, spent some time typing a bunch of stuff into the computer, then put me on hold for ten minutes.  When he came back, he informed me that because I had specified a disconnection date for my services which was on a weekend they were unable to process the request.  Rather than seeking a clarification, it seems the first guy I talked to instead put in an order to disconnect my services immediately.  Furthermore, since my service had now been disconnected, I was informed that it would require putting in an order for new service to get me reconnected, which would be just kind of pointless with all of three weeks remaining before I vacate my current place.  So to make a long story short, I had been officially exiled by the phone company.

It was, of course, bad enough that I had found myself suddenly relieved of my Internet connection by what basically amounted to a billing error, but to make matters worse, I’d burned at least half an hour on this by now, had gotten myself nowhere, and had been reduced to writing typo-laden e-mail replies on my phone to make it look like I was still actually doing stuff.  Faced with the prospect of spending unhealthy portions of the next two weeks slumming it in the nearest Starbucks, I knew I’d have to do something about this.  Fortunately, I live in reasonably close proximity to the local Comcast office and its customer service counter.  I had actually already planned to use Comcast for my Internet service in the new place, so I thought I’d give them a shot.  Sure I’ve heard all the various complaints about their business practices and their service, but since I already have cable TV with them I figure I might as well consolidate services and pay one bill per month for the stuff instead of two.  They’ve also tolerated my various bunglings during my ill-fated Tivo upgrade pretty well, so I figure I might as well give their Internet service a try.  And since I didn’t have a whole lot of other options, I figured I might as well try to see if I could activate the Internet service a couple of weeks early.  After about ten minutes of calling a co-worker to provide some sort of vague “technical difficulties” excuse, ten minutes in line and another ten minutes of dealing with the rep at the counter, I was able to walk out the door with a cable modem and some vague collection of cables, which I was able to bring back to my place and somehow turn into a functioning Internet connection.  I later had to make a quick run to Staples to grab a wireless router so I could connect mobile devices, as my old and now doorstop-enabled DSL router had been previously serving Wi-fi to the house.  Due to a lack of functioning cable jacks in my apartment I did have to set up the cable modem and router in a somewhat inconvenient location (see above,) but since I’m moving out in two weeks I think I can probably get away with it. 

So to make a long story somewhat less long,  I had somehow resolved an Internet outage resulting from an unplanned cancellation of services and returned to normal functioning within an hour and a half, leaving with plenty of time to clear off my list of resolved bugs for the day.  It seems I was even able to pick up a bit of extra bandwidth in the process as well.  I’m pretty sure this one falls into the “Results not typical” category, but I’d say that’s definitely a bit of an improvement over a 3-megabit DSL connection.  And if even that’s too slow, I’ve probably got bigger problems than I’m going to be able to fix by switching browsers.  Then again, given the circumstances, I’m mostly glad I don’t have even bigger problems than this.

July 9, 2010

Random Thoughts: No Pressure, and There Goes the Neighborhood

Filed under: Random Stuff — Brian Lutz @ 1:52 am

Finally I have a bit of time to catch up on my Blogging a bit after a rather busy week and weekend.  My 3-day weekend ended up being closer to a 1 1/2 day weekend as we hit crunch time on the latest big project at work, which finally got submitted to the App Store yesterday (more on that once it gets released.)   One of the curses that comes with a career in software quality assurance is the fact that it doesn’t really matter what you’re shipping, there’s a good chance you’ll never be 100% satisfied with whatever goes out the door, but you just have to ship the stuff at some point or you never will.  Still, even after spending countless hours tinkering with things in much-less-than-optimal conditions, every once in a while something goes out the door that you just think happens to be incredibly cool.  For example, even though I could probably still name half a dozen bugs that I really wish had been fixed before it went out, I have to say that I really like the way our team’s Colbert Report’s The Word for iPad app turned out.  Although the version of this app on the iPhone wasn’t really much more than a menu that could be used to play video clips on the device, on the iPad version our team’s local developer was able to put together a pretty cool effect with all of the various Words on the background floating around in 3D space that can be manipulated freely by the user.  To be perfectly honest I don’t care much for the content (it often comes across as more pretentious than humorous) but I still think the app turned out well…  Aside from the bugs, of course.

One interesting side effect of working with big media companies is that on occasion very high-level people in these companies take interest in our projects.  After all, we’re basically creating their mobile device presence for them, and they’re going to take notice of that type of thing.  Even so, it can be just a little odd to be busy testing something then have the boss walk in and say something to the effect of “oh, by the way, [Fortune 100 CEO] is going to be reviewing this build, so be extra-careful when you’re going through it.”  Not that this is exactly a new experience (after all, having worked at Microsoft, I suspect an exec or two has probably dealt with some of the stuff I’ve worked on at some point) but when you’re working in an office of less than 15 people and you’re basically being paid to mess around with phones all day, it definitely seems a bit incongruous to hear something like that.  I do suppose that if we pull this stuff off it’ll look really good on a resume later on (the Beavis and Butt-Head part might be a tad difficult to explain though,) but that’s not what you’re thinking at the time.  Usually, one’s thoughts when being informed of such high-level scrutiny tend to immediately look for every possible worst-case scenario (“Your app sucks.  Oh and by the way, we’ve revoked your gasoline privileges, you’re walking to work from now on kid.”)  but even if the whole thing completely bombs and it’s all your fault, chances are that you’re in an obscure enough position that you’ll probably not catch too much heat.  Unless the whole thing completely bombs on national television, in which case all bets are off.

Of course, having that stuff off my plate means I can turn my attention to other matters such as the fact that I’m going to be moving a bit more than two weeks from now, and I should really start thinking about getting stuff packed.  This isn’t to say that I’ haven’t been doing anything.  I have started going through my stuff and putting together a slightly more comprehensive than usual list of the items that I can probably live without.  An apparent water leak in the storage closet on my back porch probably actually helped, as it conveniently managed to only ruin stuff I probably needed to just get rid of in the first place, but I’m pretty sure I’m going to have to get rid of a lot more than that.  To be perfectly honest, I think the only item that absolutely positively can’t come along with me to the new place is the gas grill, since I have nowhere to put it (well, I do suppose I could hang it off the side of the building, but I suspect there’s something in my lease prohibiting that type of thing…  Gotta’ keep up appearances, you know.)  The big desk I have here is also a concern, but I think if necessary I can make it work in the new place by taking off one of the extensions.  There’s quite a few other things that I really should get rid of as well but haven’t quite figured out how to do so, and then there’s the stuff that seems too valuable to just toss out, but isn’t really doing me much good where it is.  There’s probably a good reason that you see people hire people to come throw out half their stuff for them.

Then again, even if I don’t do quite as much downsizing as I’d like to, I actually don’t think the move is going to be all that bad.  There’s no stairs involved on either side, and although I might have to get used to a smaller kitchen than I’ve got here, I think this should actually work pretty well.  I do lose the second bedroom I have here that serves as my den/office, but I do get a larger living room space that I should be able to use for most of the stuff that’s in here now.  It’s definitely going to take a bit of adjusting, but I guess that part just comes with the territory really.  I suppose that problem will work itself out one way or another.  It does occur to me as I go through this process that really if I wanted to, there would have been nothing preventing me from just staying put where I am and just avoiding the hassle of moving entirely, but as I’ve said before I really think I need to do something to shake things up a bit at this point, and although this move might just be going a bit overboard, it might also be just the thing I needed at the same time.  Now where was I?  Oh yeah, “Find yap dog and massage therapist”…

July 3, 2010

Fun With Insomnia: Chasing Delusions of Grandeur, and Other Items on My To-Do List

Filed under: Random Stuff — Brian Lutz @ 3:15 am

I suppose that after spending the last thirty-two years piloting a human body around this planet I’d have figured out a thing or two about how the things are supposed to work.  Try as I might, there are a few things I just can’t seem to figure out.  For example, how is it that around 9:30pm I can be so tired that I’m just about ready to zonk out on the spot, but by the time I actually go through the pre-bedtime routine and I’m ready to actually go to bed then suddenly I’m wide awake, and continue to be wide awake at 2am?  It probably doesn’t help much that I’m frequently still awake at 2am anyway, but that’s the tricky part about whatever variation on insomnia I’ve got:  I never seem to have any trouble falling asleep when I’m not supposed to be falling asleep, just when I want to be.  It probably all boils down to some sort of seriously out-of-whack sleep cycle, but I’ve gotten used to it.  In the meantime, since sleep doesn’t exactly seem to be on the agenda right now, it’s time for another Fun with Insomnia  post:  All the drivel of a regular Sledgehammer post, with only half the coherence!

Anyway, as you might imagine, the big item on my plate right now (aside from the usual task of trying to get about half a dozen mobile apps shipped all at once) is the fact that I just happen to be moving into Downtown Bellevue three weeks from now, and I’ve got a to-do list half a mile long as a result.  Surprisingly, it’s not the actual moving that I’m worried about at this point:  Sure there is the task of packing everything up and hauling it out, but really when I look around the place I suspect that the vast majority of the big stuff in the place could be loaded up onto a truck within about an hour or so, but there are some items that I am going to need to get rid of before I do (I’m pretty sure the management at my new place would frown on the indoor use of a gas grill, and the thing would probably take up too much space anyway.)  Mostly it’s all the little things like changes of address, transferring utilities and services to the new place and basically doing whatever I need to do to make sure I don’t find myself spending a week in luxurious darkness when I get there.  Fortunately with most of my family nearby it isn’t too hard to find good help for the actual moving part.  In order to round up some help for the move, this is the e-mail I sent out:

As you have probably heard by now I am currently in the process of turning into a freakin’ yuppie, and I am going to be moving to a new place in Downtown Bellevue a few weeks from now.  I would appreciate if I could get some help with the move.  I will hopefully be getting most of my stuff moved in on Saturday July 24th, and will have the freight elevator in the building reserved for three hours that day.  Unless you count the dinky little step in front of my current place that really has no business being there in the first place there won’t be any stairs to deal with, and since there’s a freight elevator at the new place I’m hoping I should be able to keep the hernias to a minimum.  And there will, of course, be donuts (GOOD donuts.  You know, the type that are so good NFL rookies risk public humiliation to steal ’em at 3 in the morning.) 

The new apartment is in ElementsToo, just off the NE 8th exit to 405…  You know, that big pretentious wedge-shaped building you see from 405 when you’re driving through Bellevue and think to yourself, “Man, the guy who designed that place must have been smoking something.”  It should be noted that the complex may contain one or more art galleries, so if you find it necessary to wear a beret, feel free to do so.
 
Let me know if you have any questions, comments, or concerns about my sanity.
 
Thanks,
-Brian

Shortly afterward, my brother Jared replied with the following message, which I thought was just too hilarious not to share:

Though my current residence in the nether-reaches of the Seattle Metro area and the “red-neck” tendencies associated therewith make me wary of any structure containing an art gallery, I find myself intrigued by the possibility of commandeering a freight elevator for hours of personal use and enjoyment.  I do believe it will be my privilege to take the gun rack out of my back window (city folk frown on such public displays, after all), brush my tooth, hitch up my rope belt and see what this “culture” business is all about.  Besides, who isn’t willing to engage in hours of back breaking manual labor when there is the possibility of donuts being involved.  Anyone know where I can get a cheap beret?

Although it tends to be a skill of limited use, I find it oddly reassuring to know that the fine art of dry sarcasm runs in the family.  After all, who wouldn’t jump at the chance to don a cheap beret and spend three hours playing in a freight elevator in the second snobbiest part of town?  If someone complains, just call it performance art and they won’t be able to do a thing about it (besides call the cops, that is.)

To be perfectly honest, I still haven’t quite managed to make it past the “What the heck did I just get myself into?” phase of the whole thing, After all, it would be a lot cheaper and a lot more convenient to just stay put where I am and not have to pack up and move everything .  Actually, I’m pretty sure I would have to move eventually, as I am not currently planning to spend the rest of my life in a nondescript aging 840 square foot apartment, but it would give me the option to just hit the snooze button on that one for another year.  Although the commute is a significant factor in the decision to move, I’d have to say that the main reason I’m moving is that I just get the feeling that it’s time for a change.  In fact, I could say that I pretty much made up my mind that I’d be moving now back when I made the decision to renew my lease a year ago.  Five years is actually quite a long time to spend in one apartment, and I just get the sense that I’ve become a bit too settled in where I am.  On one hand, I am still not entirely convinced that I’m not making some sort of big mistake here, but on the other hand, it also sounds like it could be fun.  I’m not paying nearly as much as I could be paying elsewhere in downtown Bellevue (I’m pretty sure it’s cheaper than buying an Armani suit from the next-door neighbors,) and although I seriously doubt I could do it for more than a year at this point, it’s the type of thing I’m pretty sure I’d only ever have one shot at doing, so I might as well take the opportunity.  I figure that if I can continue on my current financial path I can actually be ready to give serious consideration to buying a place (most likely not in Downtown Bellevue though, condos here are freakin’ expensive) a year from now, and can at least start to think about settling down.  Life rarely works out quite the way it’s planned though, so who knows what’ll happen?  All I know is that one way or another things tend to work out, and for that I am grateful, even if I don’t always understand quite how they manage to get there.  As usual, it’s a long story…

(Note:  It does worry me slightly that I suddenly find myself thinking of apartment rent in terms of Armani suits…)

July 1, 2010

Misadventures in Fine Urban Living

Filed under: Bellevue — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 1:03 am

If there’s one thing that spending most of the first sixteen years of my life living in a small, isolated and somewhat eccentric town in the mountains of New Mexico has taught me, it’s that I’m not a big fan of living in small, isolated and somewhat eccentric towns in New Mexico.  That’s not to say I have anything against Los Alamos; It certainly wasn’t a bad place to grow up (and I’ve actually been meaning to head down to New Mexico one of these days to go eat a bunch of green chile and go have a look around to see how much or how little has changed there) but when some simple task like grocery shopping starts turning into an all-day endeavor, you soon realize that you might not necessarily be in the Middle of Nowhere, but you can definitely see it from there.  When my parents made the decision to pull up stakes and move us up to Redmond about sixteen years ago, I wasn’t exactly thrilled by the prospect.  After all, having spent most of my life in Los Alamos it was really all that I had known, and having to start over at a new high school (two of them actually, as I ended up in three different schools during my Junior year) wasn’t something I cared much for.  In retrospect, it didn’t take long for me to realize that I liked it a lot better up here where the grocery store was literally just down the hill and across the street, and just about everything else I might be interested in wasn’t much farther away than that. 

Since that time, I’ve graduated from high school, somehow ended up with a 2-year degree from BCC, spent most of the last decade drifting around Microsoft on various contracts, and I’ve generally settled into a fairly typical quiet suburban existence.  I’m pretty sure if you had asked me ten years ago what my plans would be now that still being single wouldn’t have figured into them anywhere, but I’ve had plenty of practice with that by now, so I’ve gotten reasonably good at it.  Still, recently it has occurred to me that I have now spent nearly five years in the same apartment, and especially with recent career developments that have put me much further from my office than I’m used to being, I’ve been thinking for some time now that a change of scenery is in order, if for no other reason than to shake things up a bit.  In the process, I’ve also been looking to reduce the commute that I’ve probably ranted about a time or two on here to something shorter and more manageable than what I have now.  Although it may seem that way, Downtown Seattle isn’t exactly next door (especially being just about as far as one can get from Redmond and still be considered to be in Downtown,) and even if the traffic doesn’t get to you, the parking costs eventually will.  Given this reasoning, a shorter commute (preferably with easier bus access) became a primary factor in the decision to move.

This led to a couple of options:  The Eastgate area, which is where I’ve generally been going to catch the bus anyway (although this still requires 7 miles of driving mostly on surface streets each way and imposes some time restrictions on bus availability,) or Downtown Bellevue, which is a fair bit more expensive place to live but would also allow the option of just leaving the car at home.  To make a long story short, thanks to the crummy economy and a rather significant glut of apartments on the market in Bellevue I was able to get a surprisingly good deal on one of the newer places in town, and as a result within the next few weeks I will be moving into the Elements Too complex at the edge of Downtown Bellevue.  For those of you unfamiliar with this place, it’s the gigantic wedge-shaped building you see as you’re passing through Bellevue on I-405  that you’ve probably suspected at some point to be designed by a guy who was smoking something at the time.  Apparently this is supposed to be the artsy part of Downtown Bellevue, and there’s at least one art gallery in the 989 Elements building next door which is part of the same complex.  In addition to the apartments there are also several retail spaces in the lower floors, although most of these have yet to be built out, and at least one retail tenant (a nightclub over in the other building) got evicted earlier this year for some unspecified reason, much to the relief of residents that by all accounts weren’t exactly big fans of the place anyway. 

Of course, living in Downtown Bellevue does come at a price, although it’s a lot more reasonable than one may think (without getting into details, I’d say I’m probably paying less than an Armani Suit a month for rent here, and although it’s a fair bit more than I’m paying now it’s actually less than $30 more than I was paying for this place a year ago before the markets cratered.)  I do have to give up the second bedroom I’ve been using as an office at my current place (and with it I’m pretty sure my arcade cabinet and big desk will have to go as well,) although the overall square footage is only slightly smaller than my current apartment.  I also don’t have a balcony at the new place (which means the gas grill will have to go) but I do get an unobstructed east-facing view from eight floors up, which should be good for some nice sunrises and views of Mount Rainier.  Oh, and the place has some nice amenities to it as well, like air conditioning, an indoor pool, a much nicer exercise room than my current place, and appliances that might have actually been manufactured during the current millennium.  And as far as the impacts this move may have on the Blog, my new place will also be just a block away from the Bellevue Library and its microfilm archives, which should make acquiring Recycled Newspaper material a lot easier.  The Bellevue Transit Center is also just a couple of blocks from here, making bus access to and from Seattle quite easy. 

To be perfectly honest, as nice as all this sounds,  I’m not entirely sure that this is exactly the best idea that I’ve ever had. After all, urban living isn’t for everyone.  And even in my case, I have my limits (I seriously doubt I could ever be convinced to go live in Seattle, no matter how nice the place may be.)  This, on the other hand, sounds like an interesting opportunity that may not present itself again for a number of reasons, and I might as well give it a shot while I can.  Now I just need to figure out how to get on one of those “You suck at fashion” reality shows so I can afford to actually shop at some of the places nearby…

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