Lest you fear I don’t like it here

My cranky post about moving mistakes should not be taken to suggest that I’m not enjoying things in my new place. In fact, I am. I’m on vacation from work, which itself is a delightful thing, and means I have plenty of time to unpack, organize, and enjoy myself, all of which I’ve been doing.

Moving from suburban Menlo Park to the heart of a retail district in Portland is wonderfully surreal (or perhaps surreally wonderful). All of a sudden I understand why people who live in cities eat out so much. Why worry about cooking when there are dozens or hundreds of restaurants within easy reach, many of which look quite good? Of course, this hasn’t stopped me from cooking — tonight I made stir-fry with produce and tofu bought at Food Front, a local cooperative grocery, and inaugurated my new kitchen with plenty of garlic.

Every time I step out of my house, I see people — fashionable people, cyclist people, kid people, scrub people (there’s a hospital nearby). I see buses and ambulances, scooters and skateboards. I see bookstores, massage therapists, cafes, furniture and housewares stores, and so much more. It’s resource overload. I can walk to my apartment management company’s office, to Bank of America, to Walgreens, to Trader Joe’s, to the hardware store, and to the library, all in less than fifteen minutes, and all in a length of time easy to reckon by counting the blocks (conveniently numbered and lettered) and allowing one minute per block. And that’s not even considering all the places I can get if I ride the bus into or across town. (It’s worth noting that BoA, Walgreens, TJs, and an Ace Hardware were also within the same walking distance of my old place — but that walking distance, unlike this one, didn’t contain much along the way.)

My new apartment is lovely too. I have a living room with wood floors and a bay window looking onto the western hills, two of whose segments are currently open to the night air. It gets a little hot in the afternoons, but there’s been a breeze which comes in nicely and cools things off. I have a small but powerful gas stove, easier to clean than my old one, and a kitchen with lots of storage, including an old-fashioned china cabinet that I’m keeping bulk food, spices, and glassware in. My new counters are easy to clean, too, but I miss my in-sink disposal and “compost pile” (part of the garden where I used to dump my food scraps — this is not so feasible in a third-floor apartment).

I also miss my dining area and closets. My old apartment was arranged in a kind of irregular square, which meant that I didn’t have any space lost to hallways and so it could be used for a dining area and several closets. The new place, although only a little smaller in square footage, is linear, and the hallway takes up a lot of space, so although the kitchen is larger, there’s no dining area and fewer/smaller closets. So I have to think carefully about how I’m going to use the space.

I do have a few more compensations besides the view and the windows: French doors in the bedroom that open to the living room, a claw-foot tub in the bathroom (nifty, though requiring minimum two shower curtains to avoid a water mess), secure bike storage in the basement, cheaper and indoor laundry (also in the basement), indoor garbage and recycling, and everything maintained in a bit better repair.

Today after unpacking for a while, I left the house to drop off my rent and on the way back, went to a bookstore, popped into a futon place, and dropped by the library. Then I got a massage.

Yeah, I love Portland.

Things not to do when you are moving

I live in Portland now.

I moved starting Friday with loading, then Saturday was driving, and Sunday was unloading, though the process started ages ago with finding a place to live and packing my stuff.

This is my first real move, “real” meaning involving an entire apartment of stuff and furniture, a moving truck, a long drive, movers, etc. I’ve moved rooms before, but not a whole apartment, and not so far.

As a result, I made some mistakes in the process, which I want to detail here, not in the interest of berating myself or anyone else involved, but in the interest of not making the same mistakes twice.

Mistake #1: Failure to correctly estimate the volume of stuff I own.
I made a substantial underestimation in choosing which size truck to rent. I chose the smallest, 10′ U-Haul truck, when really, to accommodate everything in my apartment, I definitely needed the next larger one. I blame myself mainly, because I didn’t look carefully enough to realize that my tall bookcases would not stand upright in the smallest one (it is VERY close) and that it was just smaller than I envisioned, but it is also sort of U-Haul’s fault in that they claim that said truck can move apartments up to 1 BD, without stipulating that larger 1 BDs should use a larger truck.

The bookcases weren’t the only problem; it was also the sheer volume of stuff — in the kitchen, in the closets, all the stuff I forgot to really think about when I was thinking about stuff. And the sheer amount of furniture and similar items, even with my couch and media center gone — large coffee table, dining room table, computer desk and chair, IKEA Poang chair, dresser, queen bed, etc. It’s a lot. My old apartment was pretty large and had a lot of storage, and I had it very efficiently, if not excessively, filled.

I also forgot that I had to add my office stuff to the total because this was a voluntary move on my part and its shipping would not be paid for.

Mistake #2: Not packing enough in advance.
In general, I did a reasonable job with this. Where I messed up was in not packing the “last minute” stuff sooner, and not getting rid of even more random stuff (even though I had got rid of six bags of stuff plus freecycled a bunch of things). I had left a minimal set of things out to use, but it wasn’t minimal enough and I didn’t put it away and get down to total minimalism soon enough. I was able to cook up to the day before, which was definitely a mistake. I had too much food in the house, and too many things that I didn’t absolutely need (dish drainer, shower caddy, kitchen items, electronics) hadn’t been packed. This made for stressful packing at a very literal last hour, and complicated the “too much stuff for the truck” problem by making it unclear how much stuff there really was. And packing some stuff so early on and some stuff so late left me not making ideal decisions about what to take and what to leave. I definitely packed some stuff where if I could go back in time, I’d trade it for my toaster oven, or my Poang chair, though that’s not necessarily a possible trade even so.

I found the experience of packing myself to be a lot more challenging/boring/exasperating with the amount of stuff I own now than with the amount that I’ve owned in previous moves. I think next time if I have the budget I’ll give serious thought to hiring it out. On the other hand, my packing job rocked, because I am devoted to bubble wrap and packing paper and excellent at packing tetris. I haven’t found anything broken yet, and I’ve unpacked almost everything fragile.

Mistake #3: Overly optimistic/inopportune timing.

This manifested in several ways, but they all evolved out of not looking closely at what kind of time would be needed for parts of the process.

My plan evolved starting with learning my lease start date in Portland, which turned out to be Wednesday, June 24. From there, it took into account vacation time and timing, 30-day legal notice, other people’s schedules, and days of the week to decide when to move. The plan was to load Friday afternoon (after I worked Friday morning) and drive and unload on Saturday.

This turned out not to work the way I wanted. I should have taken more time off before the loading (that is, all of Friday at least, and maybe even shifted some of my vacation time to preceding the move rather than following, although I must say I am enjoying having time off to organize and do errands).

I should not have been trying to rent the truck and drive on a weekend, when everyone wants to move, because any equipment fail (see above) is irrevocable because all equipment is busy.

We should not have planned the more/most optimistic time estimates for the drive, because it took longer, and it was stressful to be worrying about time rather than enjoying the scenery.

Most surprising to me was a mistake I made about arrival time: we should not have planned to unload at 7pm on a Saturday in the middle of one of Portland’s active restaurant/retail districts. So obvious, yet it never occurred to me until my new landlord called and was like…um…this will probably not work, because parking in NW on Saturday nights is nonexistent.

Fortunately, the drive timing mistake and the retail issue canceled each other out and we ended up doing the unload on Sunday morning, and it worked out very well.

Aside from all that, the move really went very smoothly. The truck worked, the drive was safe, those who helped me out were all completely wonderful (friends, family, and movers), and I ended up with the old apartment empty and clean and owning a set of stuff that will fit pretty well in my new apartment. And I love my new apartment, and I love Portland, so I’m a happy camper.

Peevishly honored

I got linked by Arnold Zwicky!

The trackback ended up on the first entry in that month, because his link doesn’t lead to the entry itself, but rather to all entries for the month of August, of which that one appears to be first, but is actually the last. In blogging “the last shall be first”, I suppose.

And now I’m peevishly complaining about someone blogging about my peeveblogging. But I’m still not peeveblogging about peeveblogging about peeves.

Ride report: Sequoia 50K 2009

Sunday morning was my third, and more than likely last, Sequoia 50K ride.

DST: 34.5
MXS: 34
AVS: ~10mph (overall), 12.5 (moving)
Time: 3:15 (overall)

My stats are a tad muddled because I checked my distance at the finish, but forgot to check my AVS and time, and then I rode home via Foothill. My total distance for the day was 43.4 miles. 1 mile from home to Palo Alto Caltrain, 1 mile from Arastradero and El Camino to the start, and 7 miles home.

I’m proud of myself for getting up and doing this ride — I was out in Oakland Saturday night and lost my phone, and I haven’t been training at all (except in that I’ve gone on a few other rides recently), so I was tired to start out with and not that well-prepared. Also, in the past they’ve had bagels and coffee at the start, so I didn’t eat breakfast, and when the food and drink did not materialize, I only had a few spoonfuls of the nutbutter/honey/chocolate mix I brought to start out on. Fortunately that stuff is awesome.

I still managed to do a respectable job at the climbing. Arastradero kicked my ass, leaving me exhausted and panting as usual, but I was able to do Arastradero, Alpine, and Whiskey Hill without stopping. A peloton passed me going the other way at about 35 mph in the preserve.

The organizers included a new loop on Alpine out past Portola this time, which was more climbing but a nice rural-neighborhoody excursion. The descent back to Portola (on Willowbrook) was nice and I hit 32 on one steep section.

After Whiskey Hill, it was a pretty straight shot down to the rest stop at Burgess Park, near my house. Once again I didn’t succumb to the temptation to go home in the middle, and instead had a lot of food and headed out through Menlo and Palo Alto with some acquired companions.

This part of the ride has never been my favorite. I enjoy the winding trek along Woodland (which I rarely ride even though it’s nearby), but after you pass University the pavement quality goes from fine to terrible (almost nonexistent in places) and you bump along for quite a while before turning onto Newell in Palo Alto and finishing with a trek along Palo Alto’s badly paved but otherwise pleasant streets. One notable, and sad, sight this year was the memorials at E. Meadow and the train tracks, where two Gunn High School students committed suicide in May.

The final route this year went through the neighborhoods between Meadow and Arastradero before getting back on Arastradero, rather than using the Gunn High bike path. This was less confusing and more pleasant, and provided a better view of Juana Briones park between Maybell Ave and Arastradero, although it did mean overlapping the beginning of the route more.

The most fun part of the ride for me was the scenery and the slow lifting of the fog. As I was climbing Alpine, the nearby hills were green and the Skyline ridge hills were fainter and bluish. Along Whiskey Hill, the fog could be seen starting to lift, and the descent down Woodside provided a fantastic view across to the East Bay hills, partly golden and sunny, and partly blueish and dark. Traversing the familiar route was poignant for me because I’ll have only a few more rides before I leave. I’ll miss the unique Peninsula scenery.

USPS Fail — again!

I was at home today when the postal carrier came by, which turned out to be a good thing, not because he had a package for me, but because he apparently thought I had already moved.

I don’t understand, because I filed a change-of-address that had a start date of 6/27/09 (the day I’m moving). I did get a notice that said that it went through, which is great, but it doesn’t actually confirm the start date, so now I don’t know if the start date is correct but my postal carrier is clueless, or they didn’t add the start date. Either way, fail.

The postal carrier kept trying to convince me that I should leave him a note on the day that I moved so they could start forwarding my mail. I thought that’s what a change of address form was for! I shouldn’t need to leave a note in my mailbox for my postal carrier to get an official change of address put into effect properly. Should I?

How to write a good bug report

A friend of mine was complaining tonight about how people don’t write good bug reports. A Google search for “how to write good bug reports” turned up some sensible advice on the subject, but mostly verbose and poorly-written.

The best advice I ever got about how to write good bug reports was from my former manager. We use a tool at work that other people write for us, so they aren’t users, and we aren’t programmers. We have to work at it to write explanations that make sense to them, and they don’t intuitively understand what we’re expecting to happen in all cases.

Her advice can be summed up in three short points:

1. Tell them what the problem behavior is.
2. Tell them what you did that led to the problem behavior.
3. Tell them what behavior you want instead.

#2 is extremely important. Be as specific as possible. Write it down in a series of numbered steps. In programmer-speak this is called “steps to reproduce”. This will make your programmer happy and also make sure that they don’t ignore you because they can’t see the same problem on their setup and can’t be sure how you created it on yours.

Personally, I was having the most trouble with #3, remembering not just to complain about the problem and assume they would know why it was a problem and what the solution was, but to explain exactly what I wanted instead, in detail. Trust me, the programmer doesn’t automatically know what you want. They’re hired to write code, not read minds.

Now go forth, and write good bug reports.

If your organization happens to use Bugzilla, this information (particularly about how to write a good summary) may also be helpful.