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Moved

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We have all our stuff in the house now, although much of it still in piles and boxes of course, and it’s feeling like home. We finally have ADSL, a couple of days late thanks to some confusion over a second phone line we have which I didn’t know about until today.

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Above is the view of the ocean over the neighbour’s roof. It’s very private, as we have large windows that no one is looking into (I’m always conscious of the fishbowl effect of large windows in a house). The view out the back is not so bad either…

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As expected, I am really loving being Mr Fixit Guy around the place, with every tweak making something a little more functional. In fact I just fixed a towel rail while waiting for the latest Visual Studio service pack to install! Next on the list is that wonky Hills Hoist, and the wooden fencing around the pool deck which you really don’t want to be leaning against right now.

The only notable thing still not sorted out now is TV reception, as even though we have a giant antenna mast with various spiky doodads attached we simply can’t get any signal from it. So we’re having someone to come out and check that tomorrow– I’m not foolish enough to attempt to solve that one on my own, preferring to settle in a bit before I go falling off the roof attempting some kind of DIY.

PS My favorite tool right now is a cordless (electric) screwdriver, something I always thought was a waste of money since I already have a good cordless drill… but man was I wrong. These things are great, with their compact size and quick-release bits.

UPDATE: TV is sorted, yay. But now the dishwasher is buggered, boo. It’s stopped heating the water, after just a week of us using it. Pretty bummed out by that. Reading up on the model (SB907) it’s likely a common and easily fixed problem (pretty sure it’s already been fixed at least once before), but then the model is not exactly highly regarded, so we might have to spring for a replacement. Grrr.

UPDATE 2: After reading about a common fault in this model I decided to have a crack at repairing it myself and was quite surprised that it actually worked (being the first time I’ve used a soldering iron in at least 20 years). I guess the component just didn’t line up well enough with the copper trace on the PCB during manufacture. Still thinking of getting a new machine anyway as this one’s not great– doesn’t dry well and doesn’t do a good job with pots and pans. This LG model sounds like a good one.

Moving

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And so it begins, accompanied of course by rain all weekend.

Some observations on the place now we’ve had time to look at things more closely:

  • Reverse cycle air-conditioning is awesome! Even though the house is basically a big empty echo chamber right now, it takes just 10 minutes or so to get the place warm and cosy. Probably we’ll be less impressed when we get the first electricity bill, but it’s got to be more efficient than running electric fan heaters (which is what I do in my small flat without achieving nearly the same level of warmth).
  • Houses should come with instruction manuals. There are so many keys, so many light switches, it feels like it will take forever to get the hang of what does what. And I still have no idea about pool maintenance; it seems to magically turn the filter pump on based on some invisible timer right now, and there’s lots of pipes and a big black round thing… I really have no idea. I believe I have to chuck some chlorine in at some point.
  • You don’t have to wash dishes before you move them. It’s a special delight to just fill a crate with all the dirty plates and cups and stick them in the dishwasher on arrival. Woot!
  • Carpet WTF. There are these big grey marks on the carpet in the bedrooms wherever there was furniture. It’s one thing to be faded, but these are a totally different color!
  • Remote control garage door sans remote. Apparently this got lost in the transition, which makes the whole moving in the rain thing a little less fun since I can’t just click a doohicky and drive into the garage. I have a replacement on order.
  • On closer inspection, we realize that most things (taps, fittings, trim etc) are shonkier than they first appear. In fairness this is probably true of almost everything that has ever been or will be, but still comes as an unwanted surprise when towel rails spontaneously collapse on contact and the exhaust fan in the guest bathroom makes a horrible battering sound as if it had a possum caught in it.
  • Some holes in the walls where I’ve removed unwanted fittings reveal old style plaster with horsehair. I haven’t seen that stuff since accidentally bashing holes in my bedroom wall as a child.
  • Basement (rumpus room) lacks ventilation, so currently it’s looking like my workspace will be upstairs. But then I will have less wall space for blackboards and whiteboards and such. In the long run we really need to add some extra ventilation anyway to make the place less hospitable to future termites, but at this point it’s really just the moving we’re focusing on.
  • There’s an evil, evil plant with super spiky leaves (like, needle sharp) next to the front path which stabs me every time I walk by. I plan to take some shears with me and visit extreme violence on that plant tomorrow.

A special bonus hassle is that I got rear-ended while driving back from the house this evening, by an uninsured driver, and I’m borrowing a friend’s station wagon, so that’s a huge and unforseen pain in the ass.

Update: so I hired a truck (which is what I should have done in the first place), and here’s exactly what the weather was like ALL FREAKIN’ DAY. Huge thanks to my special helpers who came to my rescue when I most needed it.

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At last.

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T minus 3 days…

In theory we are to finalize ‘settlement’ and receive the keys to the new house this Friday, which I am both excited and apprehensive about. I’ve moved house 7 times in as many years and am rather ready to stay in one place for a while. Moving is really one of the most horribly tedious, stressful activities in life, but in this instance I just keep reminding myself: “But this house will be OURS”.

I don’t actually have a lot of stuff to move, but even so I am kind of dreading it and wishing I had a personal assistant who could do it all for me. And of course, because I don’t have a lot of stuff, it’s not worth hiring movers, which means lots of borrowing vehicles and lugging crap myself– trying to avoid roping in friends as helpers at this point as the only thing worse than moving house is helping someone else move house. A small mercy is that the place I’m currently living could be charitably called “run down”, so I don’t have to be quite so anxious about leaving the odd scuff mark and such as the place was already amply blemished when I moved in 2 years ago, so I’m pretty confident I’ll be leaving it in a more habitable state than I found it.

I will miss the seaside shackiness of it though.

ocean view

House/Home

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It’s official: contracts are done, deposit paid and now we enter a 7 week settlement period, so basically we should be moved in by the end of June. (although suddenly that seems an annoyingly long time to wait).

A couple of key features:


Ocean views! You can actually see the ocean from the living area in the house, which I was surprised by. Also my better half will get to see it every morning as she embarks on her annoying commute :)


A Pool! Though since it will be the middle of winter when we move in we probably won’t be getting a lot of use out of that for a while.

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A usable area under the house for BBQs! I will host a goddamn BBQ this year if it kills me!

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A spa bath! (with bonus weird blue marble effect bathroom)

It will also be the first time I live in a house with a dishwasher, which will be AWESOME. I’m so used to not having one that I actually referred to it as a “dishwashing machine” earlier today. In all honesty it’s probably the thing I’m most looking forward to right now.

I would show more pics but I’d just be reusing shots from the agent’s listing and Google Image Search is a little too clever these days– I don’t really want to share that many details publicly about exactly where we’re going to live and how much we paid. I’m not about to claim we got the best price, and prefer not to hear advice from people who would have “beaten them down”, because really there is almost nothing more annoying at times like these.

I see now why people describe buying a house as stressful, because it bloody well is. But now that we are actually locked in a sense of calm has settled in and it’s so damn nice to be past the point of second-guessing everything. We’re buying this house to live in, not to flip, and we really like it.

And of course now I want to write a floor plan app because the one I’ve been using (FloorPlanner) is just too prone to screw-ups (and it’s written in Flash… blech). I first tried it several years ago and it’s no better now than it was then. If you know of a good free or cheap alternative let me know, but after trying a few this seems about as good as it gets.

Also really fighting the urge to run out and buy a tonne of power tools, garden implements and furniture that I really don’t have the cash or storage space for right now.

Working from home

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A blessing and a curse.

It’s been a few years now since I worked in an office environment, and although there’s a lot I don’t miss, there are some things I do. Daily social interaction with workmates is a handy way to make sure you aren’t going a bit mad. When you get stuck on a problem and swear loudly enough someone will eventually pop their head in and give you a chance to explain it to them, at which point you might suddenly figure out what’s wrong, or at the very least garner some sympathy.

When you work from home, you get total control of your workspace, and that’s great. Except that you might start getting obsessive over unimportant details like where to put your desk, how many whiteboards is too many, how best to arrange your network hardware*, whether you work better with music and which music to choose, ambient light levels, optimal selection of pens, etc.

Also you get to set your own hours. Awesome. Although what this really means for me is that I work in fits and starts at weird hours, often in the wee small hours, because I am not good at delaying the gratification of being able to use the daylight hours for something other than staring at a computer screen.

Overall I still like it a lot more than not, but I just wish I could be a little more disciplined with my schedule.

See also:

 

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* Answer: Pile it onto a high shelf and just try to ignore it.
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Looking for a relatively nice place to live

For the past few months Emma and I have been looking for a house to buy, and so far we’ve seen two places we really liked. The first one was like this old country house forgotten in the middle of a regular Sydney suburb, but it was snapped up well before we could get our finances in order. The second we really thought was going to be ours; we seemed to be the only parties genuinely interested and we made a formal offer, but for some reason the owner ended up making other arrangements excluding us and the agent (we never had the chance to make a second offer). We’re still sore about that, as we had come to assume it would be ours.

So now we start the new year frustrated that we have to start looking again, and pessimistic about finding a place we like as much anytime soon. I had even been digging into NSW crime stats to work out the relative niceness of the suburb (Wiley Park) which, although it isn’t generally considered a ‘nice’ suburb, is actually within a region (Canterbury) that is markedly below average on a lot of key crime stats.

We continue scouring the region for other options, mainly because it’s one of the only decent areas we can really afford to look at. The other area we’re looking at is nearby Auburn, but I’m not liking the stats quite as much for that region. Where the Canterbury region factors fairly low on most of these stats, Auburn tends to be on the high side (although some numbers are trending strongly down over the last 5 years). The current region I live in is technically Wollongong (which fares very badly, although I live very much on the outskirts) and I grew up in the Tweed region.

All data below is extracted from tables provided by the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research. Numbers represent incidents per 100,000 population.

Assault

Assaults

Break & Enter

Break&Enter

Sex Offenses

Sex Offenses

Harassment & Threats

Harrassment

Vandalism

Vandalism

Car Theft

Car Theft

Robbery

Timing

Today there’s a new addition to the sign that stands on my front lawn almost blocking the driveway…

The place has been on the market for more than a year, so it was bound to happen eventually. For those who came in late, I am not the owner; merely a lowly tenant of 1 of the 3 flats into which this old weatherboard (asbestos) house has been divided. I’ve had the luxury of an enormous amount of privacy over the last year, having the place to myself most of the time, paying very low rent, with only one neighbour who spends only a few days a week here. At least part of this equation will be changing at some point in the near future.

On some level I had the notion that I would magically be able to come up with the rather large amount of money required to buy the property myself… so that fantasy is well and truly busted now.

btw although the place doesn’t look like much from the front, it’s the back that makes it a rather desirable bit of real estate…


(270° panoramic shot – that’s the house on the right)

 

Walls

Today was a no computer kind of day– I’ve only just started it up to create this post. I decided I needed to do something with my hands that didn’t involve typing for a change, and I’ve been getting the shits with my walls lately. Yes, my walls. They are a drab grey-blue, and I had stuck some plastic film up to use as a super cheap whiteboard, but unfortunately it was also super ugly too.

Classy eh? I previously had an actual whiteboard there but it was too small, and unfortunately the large ones cost about a million dollars. So today I decided to revisit an old habit from my youth, which is to paint shit black.

So much better! Even if I had a whiteboard this size, I’m just sick of the things. There’s no texture to a whiteboard, and nothing to match the tactility of drawing with chalk. And yes, chalk is dusty, but you can’t have everything. The surfaces are pristine at the moment because I want to give the paint at least a day to dry fully before using it, and speaking of paint I might have to wrap this post up and go for a walk because these fumes are making me woozy…

The Joy of Crappiness

Not sure why I have such an affinity for the run-down type of place. Perhaps it’s because when a place is falling apart it’s relatively easy to make significant improvements on your own, with little more than a hammer and maybe a screwdriver. Door doesn’t close properly? It’s just a loose hinge! Drawer doesn’t close properly? It’s just an old nail poking out! Light fittings suck hugely? Cheap paper thingies from Ikea!

The other nice thing about a run-down place is that you don’t have to walk on freakin eggshells hoping not to accidentally bump some furniture into a door frame and leave a mark.

Of course, there is a point at which a crappy place becomes a little too crappy, and then someone with dollar signs where their corneas should be might start thinking about knocking the whole thing down to build some big fancy-pants joint with ocean views. The following was kind of inevitable, but the timing (a week after I moved in!) is pretty goddamn annoying.

Just great.

I hate moving (until it’s done)

Although I’m not quite done, I am mostly done… I am without a TV for now, but no biggie. And I still have to do a mega-shop for plates, utensils etc.

Here’s what my eastward view looks like, although I don’t actually get to see this from my window– my unit faces west; this pic was taken from the (shared) backyard.

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I’m very much looking forward to sitting out there from time to time, drinking iced tea, listening to the surf, and playing Scrabble on my iPad :)

Moving again…

My niece Rocket can watch hours of homemade Littlest Pet Shop videos on Youtube – do a search and be amazed. This is my new temporary room/office until I move back down south in a couple of weeks. It’s been fantastic spending time with family and generally hanging about in Sydney but I admit I am pining for my own home again and a more peaceful environment. And I’m very happy with the deal I’m getting on the new flat – it’s a part-house in an excellent spot right on the cliffs and will cost less than half my previous rent. Although it’s a bit run down it has plenty of “character” which I always prefer to tidy but bland shoeboxes.

Another slight adjustment comes with something vaguely approaching a commitment to stay in Australia for at least the next year or two. Since coming back from NZ in early 2010 I have been in this maybe/maybe-not mindset about where I want to live, but recently I’ve decided it would be bloody nice to settle in to a place for a change. And so symbolically I went out and got myself a new iPhone4 on a 24 month contract :) Of course none of this precludes me from totally changing my mind and nicking off again; it just means that I won’t do it unless I have a really good reason to.

In other slightly beach-related news, I’m visiting Bali in a month or so, to attend a friend’s wedding. The trip is one of those things I would probably never do myself because I am such a self-hating-western-tourist, but it’s great to have an excuse to go and lounge around drinking coconut rum on floating chairs in giant flower shaped swimming pools (or whatever it is that pasty white people tend to do in Bali).