Archive for December, 2008

Running some numbers

Okay, so I’ve been running some numbers with regards to my (~) investment property.  I can basically do the following:

  1. Sell it
  2. Rent it out.
  3. Move into it.

Now that I have some solid numbers, these options are eliminating themselves.  By selling it for the same price I purchased it for (it’d be impossible now to sell it for a gain), I’d be losing about $25k after taxes, shipping and handling.  That’s a lot of money and it would hurt to lose that much.  I could recover from that, but I don’t particularly want to lose that much.

Conversely, if it sat empty for the next year, I would lose about $17k.  So, at the very least, doing nothing for a year costs less than selling it.  Ergo, selling it is not an option in this economic environment.  But leaving it empty is pretty lousy as well.

Next up is renting it.  It’s been up for rent for two months now with no takers.  I can drop the rent a little more.  I have calculated that if I go down by another $25 per month, I will lose $6500 per year.  That’s looking a lot more attractive.

Finally, I could move into it.  If I did that, I could stop paying rent on my existing place but the drawback is that I’d have to move into a condo I don’t really want to move into.  But if I did, compared to my current place, it would cost me an additional $4624 per year compared to what I am paying now.  Is the change in lifestyle worth $1900 to me (6500-4600)?  The traffic patterns are a little worse and the area of town is more isolated, but I could get by.

Now that I have numbers compiled this is starting to make it a little easier to come to a decision.

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For the longest time, I used to make fun of people who drive SUV’s in cities.  After all, people don’t really need the gas guzzlers because they almost never go off-road.  They do almost all of their driving on paved roads with good traction.  It’s a bit of a waste of money.

Well, turns out those folks had the last laugh.  During the recent Seattle snowstorms, my little Corolla absolutely sucked in the snow.  I got stuck 4 times in a week and I didn’t even drive every day!  It would have been handy indeed to drive a vehicle that has 4×4.  I’ll never mock SUVs again because once in a while they come in handy.

But this brings me to the point of the title of this post.  Getting stuck so often convinced me that it was time to change the tires on my car.  Ever since I got the car I knew the tires weren’t great.  The first week I had it back in Winnipeg, I discovered in winter that starting from a standing stop the tires would frequently spin.  It was just like being a cartoon character.  Yet, I put off getting new ones because in Seattle, who really needs great traction?  The roads are all paved and it never snows!

But getting stuck so often in the Seattle snow changed my mind.  I figured it was time to get my tires changed.  I needed new ones; besides which, it’s not a bad thing to get new tires put on your car when they haven’t been changed at all (I’m guessing) in 84,000 km.  So, I took my car in to get the tires fixed and I got a call just now.  They took the tires off and inspected my brakes and recommended I get new brake pads put in.  They say that normal is 10mm and mine were down to 3mm (whatever that means). 

Now, once again, I’ve known for a while that my brakes were getting a little squeaky.  But only just a little.  But I figured "Meh… might as well get the brake pads replaced too, because I can hear them squeal and I’m not a brake expert so I don’t know how long they will hold out."  Of course, the net cost to me?  An additional $250.  That’s in addition to the $200 to get the tires done.

I guess procrastinating getting that stuff done wasn’t the best idea.

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It’s now been a little over nine weeks since I had the arthroscopic surgery on my hip.  During that time I have slowly been recovering.  Here’s an update.

My hip feels both better and worse.  My litmus test is the box step pattern I alluded to in some previous posts.  It’s something I have to do for physiotherapy but it’s also a dance pattern.  I couldn’t do the move because it caused me a great deal of physical pain.  It was mostly located in my upper leg around the back of the leg, right where the hip fits into the socket.

I can now say that doing that move doesn’t hurt anymore… most of the time.  I test it out all the time and most of the time it doesn’t hurt.  However, for some reason sometimes I feel it give and feel a sharp, short pain in that same part of the leg.  It doesn’t hurt as badly and the pain is much shorter, and it is intermittent.  I can’t reproduce it every time.  So it’s like my hip is almost all the way better there, but not quite.

Then there’s moving side-to-side.  When I move from left to right, I can feel a pain in the outside of my hip.  But this one, too, is intermittent.  Sometimes it hurts, sometimes it doesn’t.  Sometimes when I bend my knees slightly, it’s fine.  Other times it doesn’t help at all.  But the pain isn’t as bad as it was a few weeks ago so I think that’s on the mend as well.

However, the inside of my leg hurts a lot.  When I bend down and raise my full body weight on my left hip (such as bending to my left to pick something up), that hurts.  A lot.  That certainly will need to spend a lot more time healing before it’s back to normal.

So my prognosis is that there are some parts of my leg that feel better, and some parts that feel worse.  I guess I have a ways to go before I’m back to normal.

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Smirking just a bit

Referring back to my previous post, I’m a little amused by the native Seattle-ites and people who have moved here and had never seen much snow in their lives.

When the snow first hit, people were all saying "Ooh, it’s wonderful, it’s magical!  Look at all the snow!"  Now, a week and 28 snowfalls later, people are saying "When is all this snow going to go away?"  Being from Winnipeg where we have snow 8 months a year, I was smiling to myself.  I kind of knew that people would be enthralled with the snow at first, but after a while they’d be wishing that it were gone.

For you see, snow can be very disruptive.  You can’t drive anywhere and your plans and daily life are all thrown for a scuttle.  After a while, you just want things to get back to the way they were before the snow.  Most of Seattle cried uncle in a week; just think about how everyone in Winnipeg has to deal with it.

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Here in Seattle, I got back into town 6 days ago and it’s been snowing ever since.  Quite frankly I’m getting a little tired of it all.

In Winnipeg, a lot of snow is commonplace and it can shut the city down, but the streets are normally plowed in good order.  Not so over here; it takes a while to plow the streets but what’s worse is that our streets are very hilly.  Most cars just don’t have the traction to get anywhere.  Even I couldn’t get back to my place one afternoon because I simply couldn’t get up the hill.  My tires kept spinning.  I had to park my car in someone else’s spot for two days until it warmed up a bit and the snow melted.

Now, I look outside my place and it’s snowing… again.  I’m beginning to get tired of this.  It wouldn’t be so bad if Seattle salted/sanded the roads.  But they don’t.  So I’m stuck.

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Something different

Normally at this time of year, I do an end-of-year magic video featuring me doing a bunch of different magic tricks.  These are normally short clips about 10-20 seconds long and I slice together about 10-12 of them.  I’ve been doing this for the past three years.

I have decided that I am not going to do that this year.  Instead, I am focusing more on doing a complete trick from start to finish and uploading that instead.  I got some really good video editing software this year and while doing a bunch of clips would be easier than ever, the reality is that I think doing an entire trick packs a more powerful psychological punch, as it were.  In addition, I am incorporating feedback from others who say that they like the complete tricks better than the series of short clips.

So, my first video that I am putting up here is one of my favorite card tricks, entitled Sam the Bellhop.  I performed it on my birthday.  Enjoy.

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I went and checked my mail this morning and I got one heck of a surprise.  I expected that I would be getting a bill from my health care provider for the cost of my surgery.  I phoned them up a couple of times and they told me that the maximum out of pocket costs to me would be $500.  This is because Microsoft chose not to renew the contract with the health care provider and the only ones who performed arthroscopic hip surgery were with this provider.

So, I figured that $500 wouldn’t be too bad.  Yet today, I went down and received my bill.  In fact, I got two of them.  The first one, dated Nov 22, 2008, is a bill for $2317.  The second one, dated Dec 6, 2008, is a bill for $4360.  I think that one is for the surgery and the other is for the anesthesia.  So, the total cost is $6500.  That’s way more than they told me it would cost.  In fact, they told me on 3 separate occasions it would only be $500.

I’m going to have to phone some people and figure this out.  So much for health insurance.

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Pop quiz

Here’s a pop quiz for all my readers (all three of you): what’s worse than Winnipeg drivers in the winter?

Answer: Seattle drivers in the winter.

Here in Redmond/Seattle, we had a big snowstorm this week.  All of the streets are covered in snow.  Now, being from Winnipeg where our streets have snow on them for 11 months of the year, I’m quite used to it.  I don’t like driving in snow but I know how to do it.  You basically slow down, take side roads if the highways are icy (exposed roads suffer from blowing snow which can lead to ice sometimes), and give yourself time to stop.  Seattle drivers don’t know all of these little things.

Let me give you an example.  When driving in snow, you slow down.  You don’t slow down such that you are driving 5 miles an hour.  You definitely don’t drive 5 miles an hour up an incline that is covered in snow.  One such person did that today.  I was turning to go back to my place after coming home from the store.  The street that leads to my place is about 200 feet up a moderate incline.  It’s not the Arlington bridge or anything, but it’s still a good size incline.

A person was in front of me waiting to turn and then when traffic cleared we both turned, me behind him.  That’s when this person did something foolish.  He got to the street/hill and decided that he was going to drive slowly uphill.  Seriously.  That’s what he did.  He got there and then started slowing down.

"You dumbass!" I shouted involuntarily.  I never shout involuntarily at other drivers but I did this time.  For you see, I could easily predict that if he continued to drive slowly up that hill, he would never make it.  And he didn’t.  His wheels started to spin and he was not moving anywhere.  And of course, I could have been stuck behind him going no where in my Corolla which has crappy traction in the tires.  Luckily, having Jedi-like decision making processes in my head, I turned off to the left.  The parkway of my apartment complex loops around.  I took the first loop so all I had to do was drive around while Baron von Spins-a-lot was stuck in place, going no where.

I got home and parked my car and walked up the stairs to my place.  A good two minutes had elapsed at my place.  Just as I was entering my front door, I turned to my left.  I then saw the driver finally drive up the street, this time going a lot faster than he thought he was initially going to do.  Maybe next time he’ll figure out that if you drive on a snowy road uphill, you need forward momentum.  Going slow won’t cut it.

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Stranded in Montreal

This morning, I departed Belfast, Northern Ireland, to head to Winnipeg.  My flight path was Belfast -> Newark (NJ) -> Montreal -> Winnipeg.  My flight left Belfast at 11 am local time and I was due to arrive in the Peg at 11 pm local time.  All in all it was shaping up to be an 18 hour day.

The day started off fine.  I got to Belfast International Airport and I immediately wondered if I was in the right place.  The airport was really small.  I’ve traveled to a lot of international airports around the world and this one was the smallest.  Even the one in Nadi, Fiji, was bigger, and Nadi has a population less than 100,000.  Belfast is 4x that.  However, Continental Airlines flies out of there, so indeed it was the right place.

I got to Newark okay and had a major layover, about 4 hours.  Then, things started to go downhill.  First, the flight to Montreal was moved from 5:50 pm to 6:30 pm.  Oh, not good.  Then, when we finally boarded, we didn’t get off the ground until 7:00 pm.  I was supposed to catch the connecting flight to Winnipeg at 8:35 pm.  Not a whole lot of room for error.

I was uneasy about how long it would take to get Montreal and if I’d even catch the flight to Winnipeg.  It turns out that the flight to Canada wasn’t very long, only an hour.  We landed and I glanced at my watch.  I could be off the plane by 8:05.  Tight, but possible to make it.

However, when I got off the plane I walked to Customs and saw a huge line.  "Oh, crap," I said.  It would take an hour to get through.  However, luckily, there was another route for connecting flights.  I took it and it turns out it was an Express Lane.  It took 5 minutes to get through because few people were connecting.

Next up was Baggage Claim.  I’d have to reclaim my baggage and re-check it.  "Oh, crap," I said again.  Claiming baggage sometimes goes quickly, but often takes a very long time.  This could cause me to miss my flight.  I looked around and saw the rack where my luggage was supposed to be.  Success!  I saw my bag!  I went and grabbed it and moved to head out the door.  The time was 8:20, again still tight but possible to make it.

But as I got to the final exit, the Customs agent stopped me and asked for my landing card.  I gave it to him and he said "This way, please."  Evidently I had to do another inspection.  I walked around the corner and saw a long line of people.  And two customs agents doing manual inspections.  "Oh, crap," I said for a third time.  "I’m screwed."

I waited in line forever and when I was finally done, it was 8:50.  My flight was gone.  I went to the ticket agent and they announced that if a flight is canceled or you miss it due to mechanical problems, they’ll pay for your hotel.  If the flight is delayed because of weather and you miss your connecting flight, you’re SOL.  They told me my flight was delayed because of weather (whatever).

So, I’m now stranded overnight in Montreal.  Maybe it’s for the best because I hear it’s -108 degrees in Winnipeg right now.  I can’t deal with that kind of cold weather anymore.

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So true

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This past Friday, at the place I normally go dancing, was a special event.  You see, it is the first Friday of the month.  On the first Friday of each month, they have a special celebration.  They call out all of the people that were born in that month to the center of the dance floor.  They pick a style of dance (Swing, Salsa, Waltz, etc) and then other members of the audience come up and dance with the birthday people.  Each person dances with the audience members for about 30 seconds and then they switch off to the next person.

This month was my month.  I first remember seeing them do it in January of this year and thinking to myself "Man, if they ever call me up there’s no way I would do that!"  At that time I really didn’t know many dances, and I was not any good at either of them.  Fast forward 12 months and I was very much looking forward to my birthday dance.  There’s just something about being able to rotate in many different partners and pull of the moves.

I knew this had been coming up and I thought to myself "Self, if they ask, what dance should I do?  Samba?  Salsa?  West Coast Swing?  No, none of those because the latter two are always picked.  How about East Coast Swing?  Yes, that’s the one!"  My hip still hurts but East Coast is one of the dances where there is almost no pain except in one move that I know.  As long as I don’t do it, I’m okay.

They called us up to the front and I was a bit late getting there and they asked what dance we wanted to do.  One of the other girls (there were three of us, two girls and myself) said "Either waltz or rumba."

I replied "No rumba" because Rumba is my worst one.  It causes a lot of pain in my hip due to the side to side action.  The owner then said "How about East Coast Swing?"

"Yes!" I shouted silently.  "Yes," I said verbally in a calm, cool and collected voice.  They started to play the music and the follows all started to rotate in with me.  I felt pretty good about it; since I was the only lead I got to dance East Coast Swing with all of the follows and didn’t have to worry about splitting time with any of the other leads.  Altogether I think I danced with 7 or 8 follows in one song.

That was certainly my highlight of the evening.

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Something weird

So this past weekend, I packed up my bags and I headed over to Ireland.  I’m here for a week on business, and after this I go to Belfast, Northern Ireland for a day, and then back to Winnipeg for a few days.

One of the drawbacks of traveling is jetlag.  I always find it worse going from west to east than east to west.  Case in point, when I returned back to Seattle from China, I went to work the next day and didn’t feel any ill effects.  But when I went to China, my sleeping schedule was much more irregular.  I had hoped that coming here wouldn’t be that different, but I’m finding that jetlag is still very much a factor.  It’s currently 5:40 am and I feel wide awake.

I got to my hotel at 8 am in the morning, having caught the 7:10 pm red-eye out of Newark.  I decided that I needed a nap.  Traveling on planes wears me out, no matter how many times I have done it.  I had a 3 hour nap, took a shower and then went and took a bus tour of Dublin.  Man, let me tell you, after a while I got cold out on the streets of Dublin.  It’s definitely colder here than in Seattle.

Now here’s the weird part: I got back to my hotel and decided that I needed another nap.  I was still tired from the flight and didn’t sleep well on the plane (I never do).  So, that’s what I did.  Before I did, I debated whether or not I would get something to eat, or go explore a bit more of the town, or just have a rest.  I opted for the rest.  When I awoke, it was close to 8 pm.  I thought back to my earlier debate about whether or not I should go explore the town.

I then had "a conversation" with an invisible person.  "Someone" said to me "Rather than go explore Dublin a bit more, first let’s go get something to eat."  "Okay," I answered (audibly?).  I looked at my watch and then "said" "Let’s go down to the hotel restaurant and get something from there."

"All right," came the reply.  "Don’t wait for me, I’ll catch up."

About 5 minutes later I was sitting in the restaurant and I thought to myself, "Wait a second… who exactly was I supposed to wait for?  And who was I having a conversation with?  I’m traveling alone."  The entire incident was very vivid; but in fact I was having a conversation with myself and I only imagined it to be occurring between two people.  My brain was playing tricks on me.

Weird.  Reminds me of the movie Fight Club.

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Today I turned 30 years old.  That’s a big milestone, though I like to think of it as three decades of greatness.  I sometimes refer to myself as Terry Zink the Great.  That’s in order to distinguish myself from Terry Zink the Lesser.

People sometimes ask me how it feels to be 30.  Well, it doesn’t feel much different than it did yesterday when I was 29.  However, there are some definite changes compared to some years ago.

My hips feel much worse than they did when I was in my early 20’s.  I have significant rotational discomfort in both of my hips and I find that very frustrating.  I think it is a genetic disposition coupled with a result of my fall back in Fiji two years ago.  So on that front, I am feeling my "age".  However, on the other hand, in my mid-20’s when I was 26 and 27, I had some pain in my lower back.  One time after a sponge hockey game in January 2005, I suffered some debilitating pain in my left lower back.  It was so bad I could barely walk and considered not going into work.  I recovered but the point was made – my back hurt.  I suffered from some back pain off and on for the next couple of years.

However, fast forward to today when I am a couple of years older and I don’t suffer from any back pain.  In that regards, I have improved.  The pain earlier mostly came from doing lots of bending work, mostly from shoveling snow in winter.  I would do it fast, and wrong, and I would end up feeling it later on in the week.  So today, I live on the west coast where we don’t have snow so I don’t have to shovel it.  I also don’t do any activities that can hurt my back, so with regards to that I have improved.

Other than that, my joints feel fine.  I wrists, elbows, knees and ankles all feel fine.  There is no pain at all.  My right shoulder is good, just my left shoulder needs a massage because I have poor posture.  But I had that even in my earlier 20’s.  So how does it feel to be 30?  Some parts are better, some are worse.  But overall I feel good.

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