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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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I’ve noticed that on Facebook there are several types of people when it comes to posting their images:

  1. Those who post their actual pictures that look like themselves, in flattering poses.
  2. Those who post their actual pictures, but in a funny pose.
  3. Those who post images that look nothing like them (ie, some random picture).
  4. Those who post images of themselves but their faces are disguised or hidden.
  5. Those who post images of themselves with other people.  The most common of these are husband/wife combinations.

The ones that I find interesting are points (3) and (4).  Why do people not post pictures of themselves?  I wonder if there have ever been psychological studies on people and their posted portraits?

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Badminton challenge

In the sports club that I go to (whose membership is paid for by Microsoft) they have a reserved time for badminton on Sundays.  The other day, I went down there just to observe as I plan to participate in the near term.

I’ve played badminton with friends and against some of the locals, but these guys in the sports club were good.  They moved around really fast and had some amazing shots.  I began to wonder if I was out of my league.  But then I remembered my secret weapon.

For you see, a couple of weeks ago over here it was thundering and lightning in a major rain storm.  I got home from work only to discover that I had locked myself out of my house and car.  Shielding myself with a large piece of sheet metal, I went and hid under the tallest tree I could find.  Suddenly, a lightning bolt struck the tree and a branch fell down.  I picked up the branch and it was glowing…

After some time, I cut down the branch to form it into my secret weapon: Wonder Racquet!  I threaded it with strings collected from the hairs of a camel.  That racquet is going to allow me to shine on the court.

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I’m currently watching the show "Chuck: Saving the world at $11 an hour."

In the show’s first episode, one of Chuck’s friends works for the CIA and emails him a bunch of images.  Chuck opens the email and the pictures get "imaged" into his brain but he can’t recall them on demand, he has flashes of memories.  The images and secrets contain government secrets.  So, the plot of the show is that this ordinary guy has many gov’t facts that are worth killing for. 

In the second episode, he undergoes a test to get them out of his head, courtesy of the gov’t.  He is sitting in a theatre room watching a bunch of random images when one of them triggers all of his memories.  He starts babbling out random sentences like "… tried to assassinate Jimmy Carter…" and other gov’t stuff.

He then said something that caught my ear.  He said, in the middle of a string of sentences strewn together that Oceanic Flight 815 was shot down by–, and then he moves onto something else.

Oceanic Flight 815 is the flight that the survivors on the TV show Lost were on when they went down on the island.  In the show, I have assumed up to this point that the flight was brought down by a huge magnetic impulse that broke the plane apart.  There’s a scene in the season opener of the third season that shows it in the sky breaking apart.  Could the flight have been shot down instead?

Perhaps there’s some crossover occurring.  The question is whether or not these are clues.

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When I started working for Frontbridge, I used to have to work public holidays.  So, to make it up to us, the company would give us a floater holiday that we could use whenever we wanted.  It was like getting an extra two weeks (10 days) worth of holidays per year.  That sounds good but if you count up all the public holidays throughout the year, everybody gets them.  We could just bank them up.

And, bank them up I did.  I ended up carrying over a pile of holidays year-over-year.  I had barely used up any days this year, and leading up to my transfer to Microsoft in the United States, I naturally assumed that I would be taking them with me.  Nobody ever told me that I wouldn’t be.

However, I just found out last Friday that rather than carrying over all of my holidays, instead they paid them out.  So, all of my extra time off has been reset.  I view this as a mixed blessing.  It’s nice to have the extra money but at the same time I kind of feel like I was cheated out of some of my time.

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