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Archive for October, 2007

So I am now a guest blogger on Forefront’s Security blog.  Forefront is another division within Microsoft that provides security solutions for Enterprise.

This afternoon, they came around and took some video footage of me and what I’ll be blogging about.  The stuff I blog about over there is identical to what I blog about over here.

Here I am, in all my glory!

http://images.video.msn.com/flash/soapbox1_1.swf
Video: Terry Zink

I’m not too thrilled about the image above; I look like a goon!

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I have to move to a new apartment soon and it’s pretty much empty.  It has no furnishings other than the basics – fridge, stove, dishwasher, washer and dryer.  I have to provide everything else.

This leads me to the title of my post.  Can I furnish my apartment for $1000?  As a loyal reader, your first thought is probably “Terry, that’s ridiculous!  There’s no way you can populate your apartment with furnishings for an amount that small!  Stop that crazy talk this instant!”

Well, that’s where Craigslist comes in.  Seriously, that site is awesome.  To begin with, I’ll have a bed, a closet (portable armoire), some little “desk-thingies”, a rocking chair, and an office chair.  That’s what I moved from Canada.

But on Craigslist, there’s a ton of good stuff.  Here’s what I think I’ll need:

  • Living room furniture – a couch and a love seat or chair
  • A TV and possibly a stand to put it on
  • Maybe a coffee table… but I also have my magic trunk coming to me which might double as a coffee table
  • A dining room table set
  • Lamps (3 or 4)
  • A microwave

Believe it or not, all of that stuff is available on Craigslist second-hand.  Also note that I should have most of my kitchen supplies taken care of, so for the moment I am only worried about the big ticket items that I mentioned above.  I’ll keep you, my readers, updated (all six of you) on my progress.

We shall see if I can furnish my apartment with second-hand stuff for about $1000.

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More on housing

I had some opportunities during apartment housing that would have been an inexpensive two bedroom place.  But, in the end I turned it down for the following reasons:

  1. It did not have covered parking.  I want my car to be protected from the elements, and no-covered-parking for me was a deal breaker.
  2. In the first apartment I looked at, there was water on the floor, something had leaked.  While that wasn’t the only one in the building I looked at, I decided to pass on it.  Water on the floor might mean something else is wrong.
  3. The cupboards in the kitchen were too high.  You might not think this is a problem, but I found it annoying.  I had to stretch to reach inside them, and quite frankly, knowing myself it would end up being too much of a pita.

So, the one-bedroom I selected is a nice place.  It has vaulted ceilings (top floor of a two-story), the inside is nice and the complex is professionally managed.  The price per month doesn’t include anything other than rent (garbage pickup, utilities, etc, are extra, which is different than other places I looked at) but it had covered parking.  It’s close to the highway and close to the town center.  So, the price is decent but without the extras, I’d say that the value is about average.

So that’s my story about housing.

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Price vs value in housing

I just applied for, and got, a new apartment here in Seattle (actually Redmond, a suburb).  I can move in tomorrow if I want.  It turns out that it’s about 3 minutes down the street from where I am (1 minute if there’s no traffic).

I ended up looking at about 9 different apartments.  I originally wanted a 2 bedroom, which would be convenient for visitors.  I found an inexpensive place last Sunday and pounced on it but alas, the owner rented it to someone else.

I only wanted to spend about $1000 per month.  I could find 2-bedrooms for that but it was difficult to get.  The next average price for them was around $1150 a month.  Plus, there would be extra expenses like garbage and utilities which would push it to $1200.

So, I decided to look at the 1-bedrooms.  I ended up picking a place that cost $963 per month.  It’s a decent size place, about 750 square feet and it’s very nice.  I decided to think about what was more important – saving $200 per month or convenience for visitors.  I decided to select saving the $200 per month.

$200 per month is $2400 per year.  There’s a lot I could do with $2400 per year.  I could take a trip somewhere, I could invest in a stock, or I could buy some doodads (like an iPhone + the data plan).  So, potential visitors, I was thinking about you but ultimately my thrifty side won out over my generous side.  That’s what happens when you’re friends with someone who is cheap.

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Lousy weather

The other day here in Seattle, they were forecasting a weather warning.  It was going to be high winds and possibly some rain.  Worse, this threatened to be a huge storm and that maybe people should work from home, go home early, batten down the hatches.

Needless to say, this warning was because of the huge windstorm that Seattle had last December that shut down the city.  Anyway, they were issuing a windstorm warning and indeed, during the day, my fellow co-workers looked out the window and said “Geez, that’s a strong wind.”

Later in the evening around quarter after six, I walked outside and felt the serious breeze.  I wasn’t at all impressed with the severity of the ‘storm’.  I said to myself “You know, we have these types of days back home in Manitoba.  We call them weekdays.”

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Yesterday, I went to Mount St Helens with a couple of friends.  Here’s a picture:

PA130002

It was a pretty good trip but it took a lot longer to drive there than I figured.  I thought it would take about 2 hours and it was closer to 3 and a half.  Altogether, I put on 680 km (422 miles) on my car, round trip.

The last time I went hiking, I was in Fiji and nearly died and came home with a bunch of injuries.  This time, at Mount St Helens, we were on a hiking trail and I decided to get my friends to take a picture of me between two trees, suspended only by friction.  Here’s a picture:

PA130011

That picture came off alright, but I wanted to do another picture with a different angle so it looked like I was way up in there air.  Well, I jumped up into the tree but immediately fell down again due to a lack of pressure placed between the trees.  But on the way down, I had wedged my arms and hands between my torso and the tree in order to stabilize myself.  It didn’t work because immediately I had no support and came right back down again and I ended up scratching my thumb on the way down.  I ended up with a impressive gash on the outside of my thumb next to the thumbnail.  It didn’t bleed a lot but it was sensitive to touch.

What is it with me and hikes?  Is Mother Nature out to get me?

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Today, I did something that I haven’t done on the stock market in a long time.  I sold four of the stocks I was holding (half of my entire position).

Since the middle of August, it’s been very easy to make money.  It’s more or less gone straight up.  I was starting to become very uncomfortable holding these stocks for so long because a prolonged rise is often followed by the market’s swift revenge.  And today, the piper came home to be paid.

I checked my positions in the morning and went to a couple of meetings.  I came back to see that the morning gains (which were really good) had all turned into losses.  I looked at how big the losses were and they were actually somewhat nasty.  I decided to pull the trigger – I had been waiting for an excuse to get out of the market and this was what I needed.

I’ve now got some experience under my belt and I have seen a number of times a steep drop after a long rise.  In the past I have said "Oh, I’ll wait and see what happens next" before acting.  That has never worked out for me.  Not even a single time.  Steep drops like what I saw today are always followed by more drops.  My positions eventually recover but seeing the losses are painful.

Rather than wait, I decided it was time to bail out.  I sold my positions in Apple, Google, Intercontinental Exchange and Baidu.  I had held Apple for 15 months, Google for about a year, ICE for about a year and Baidu for nearly six months.  Each stock made sizeable gains for me.  I was actually sad to see them go but while some people are here to make friends, I’m just here to make money.

So, I ended up giving back a small percentage of my gains (more than I would have liked on Baidu).  That’s okay though, I was happy with my overall return and I plan to get back into them later at a better price… unless there’s something better.

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