jazzfish: Jazz Fish: beret, sunglasses, saxophone (Default)
"But Tucker, if it's not a forever place, why are you spending high-four-figures redoing the kitchen?"

Three reasons:

1) The stupid cabinets that are too small for the plates to fit in are seriously annoying. It is worth spending money to rectify this, even on a short timescale.

2) It will Increase Resale Value, at least nominally. I'm skeptical as to how much effect home renovations actually have on resale value, but hey, maybe I'm wrong. It will certainly look much nicer, which may have an intangible effect on saleability.

3) It's not that big a kitchen. Any actual homeowners reading this are scratching their heads trying to figure out how we're renovating an entire kitchen for under ten grand. The answer is that this is a tiny 80s condo kitchen, where you can't open the dishwasher and the fridge at the same time, and where two people can technically do separate food-related tasks but they'd better be VERY comfortable in each others' personal space.

And, related to that last one, if I'm gonna be A Homeowner who's not interested in DIYing the heck out of everything, I'd like to have a sense of what goes into a reno project like this. Redoing the tiny kitchen seems like a safeish way to get my feet wet.

Emily stayed home yesterday while the new cabinets got delivered and the old ones got torn out. I stayed home today while the new cabinets got installed. Based on what I've seen so far, IT IS TOTALLY WORTH IT TO PAY A PROFESSIONAL TO INSTALL THE DAMN CABINETS. Nobody's kitchen is "cabinet-sized" and things will have to be tweaked to fit, plus there may be, um, "interesting choices" made by previous owners. Like the way there are two different kinds of ceiling drywall in the kitchen over the cabinets, and making them line up is a pain in the neck. I have SO MUCH respect for the guys putting the cabinets in, and occasionally hauling things out to the porch to trim them and hauling them back in.

The wiring in here is substandard enough that the electrician couldn't finish up yesterday, so he'll be back at some point. And Emily's convinced that she can re-hook-up the sink and the dishwasher, at least good enough for a couple of weeks, so the plumber won't be back today either.

So, soon we'll have cabinets, and a temporary sink and counter. Next week the counter-measurer comes to measure exactly how much counter we need, and that ought to arrive in a couple of weeks.

So far, relatively painless. We'll see how it goes once everything is in place and hooked up, and then we'll also need to put in some kind of backsplash. (We had them tear out the HIDEOUS PAINTED-OVER TILE but haven't come up with anything to replace it yet.)
jazzfish: Jazz Fish: beret, sunglasses, saxophone (Default)
I'm mostly adapted to being a one-cat household now. It feels like learning to live with and work around a missing tooth: it mostly doesn't matter, except when something slips and you realise that it's not quite right and hasn't been for awhile.

Kai is lonely, as expected. She's taken over the duty of sitting with anyone who's on the couch, and round midnight she complains that there's no one else in the cat-bed.

I don't know how I grieve, not really. I know how to hold together and I know how to be a sympathetic shoulder.



Other than that.

Viola: there is a marked difference between knowing what you're doing wrong, and knowing how to do it right. At my lesson on Tuesday I think (hope) that I've finally figured out how to hold my left hand properly and in a more natural / less tense position. Gonna have to drill that into me for actual playing of things other than scales, but it felt right enough that I couldn't go back to holding it the way I'd been at the start of the year. Progress, maybe. I'm also gonna have to learn how to play a close second finger: my hand doesn't seem to want to move like that in that angle. Carnegie Hall.

Also sometime in the last year I developed the ability to tune by fifths rather than by harmonics, which is neat. Harmonics: if you rest your finger halfway up one string, not pressing down to the fingerboard, you get a neat ringing tone that's an octave above the open string. If you rest your finger a quarter of the way up the next lower string, it makes the same tone. You can tune your instrument by making sure these tones are the same. Alternately, if you can hear perfect fifths, you can just play both open strings simultaneously and tune one until the chord sounds right. This is the 'normal' way to tune a stringed instrument, and I couldn't do it until recently. So that's neat.

Work: The act of deciding that I want to look for a new job has been remarkably freeing. Work is still stupid and slow but that bothers me way less. Partly that's because the awful IT guy is gone; partly it's because not caring and not feeling trapped makes the idiocies far more bearable. We're still not getting bonuses, we still haven't gotten raises in coming on two years, but, eh. Whatever. If it gets bad enough I can leave, and meanwhile there's breathing room here to work out some stuff.

Condo: Emily's put in a raised bed on the patio, using leftover 4x4s from when they redid the fencing in February. The kitchen cabinets are being put in late next week, and hopefully the counter will go in early the week after.

I am more and more convinced that this is an acceptable stop-gap place, and a fine place to make money on for no reason (we bought for $480 in October; a somewhat-nicer unit in this building sold in February for $600, and an only-slightly-nicer one in March for $570), and unsuitable long-term. I'd thought/hoped that it was just barely big enough; it turns out that it's a little too small. The lack of insuite laundry is getting to me, as expected. Etc. Oh well. Something else will turn up.

I'm also becoming less and less certain that I want to stay in Vancouver, but that's a whole different fishkettle.
jazzfish: Jazz Fish: beret, sunglasses, saxophone (Default)
Tonight I'm celebrating Solstice with Erin. I am historically not much for celebrations as such but this one feels important and significant.

Tomorrow I may or not have anything coherent to say for Sunreturn. Overall, though, I feel like things are moving forward, out of the aimless flailing of the last month or two and towards something at least temporarily stable. (Stability, like permanence, is an illusion of scale.)

The great move is complete, thanks to Tranquility Movers, as recommended by Erin ("movers by day, metal band by night"), and more thanks to Erin and Julianne for showing up to help [personal profile] uilos and me get the place into some semblance of order. Most bookcases and most furniture are where they're going to end up; will see how many spare bookcases we actually end up with. The programmable thermostat took substantially longer (and more people) to figure out than it maybe should have but I believe the living room will now hold steady at 20C.

That evening I ordered Indian from what I'm told is one of the best places on the Drive and we watched Spirited Away, which I may have not seen since it was in theatres. Quite enjoyable.

So now ... we have a place. It manages to somehow look much more spacious once we get our stuff into it, bookcases and furniture and all. I don't think it's forever but it's alright for now.

condo get

Dec. 14th, 2016 02:19 pm
jazzfish: a fairy-door in a tree, caption $900/MONTH + UTILITIES (The Vancouver rental market)
Well. We took possession of the new place on Sunday, and saw it for the first time since the inspection in mid-October. And also saw it empty of other people's stuff for the first time.

It is mostly a little better than I remembered. I'm mildly annoyed by the medium-shade wood floor but only mildly; ditto the light blue walls in the living room. The kitchen's a tad roomier than I'd thought.

Some things are a little worse. The closets have been filled with awkward wire shelving instead of a normal hanging dowel rod. There are stupid mirrored wardrobes anchored to the wall in the master bedroom; two of those have been relocated. There's some ongoing discussion about whether to relocate the other two as well. The much-touted patio is a little smaller than anticipated. There seem to be small elephants children upstairs, and a wood-frame building means we'll get to hear them. Hoping that doesn't also mean we get to hear people going to bed above us. Maybe they'll have decent carpeting in the bedroom.

There's a stone head lying next to the gate to the patio. Between that and the plaster head that we're planning to hang in the hall, this house may be the Maison Defarge.

It's mildly interesting to compare where we ended up with the list of requirements that I sent to Rhonda back in August:
Location requirements:
  • Near (<10min walk) to groceries
  • Near (<10min walk) to Skytrain or a very reliable bus
  • In (<5min walk) an Interesting Neighborhood
Entirely successful. Grandview was our first choice of neighborhood. It's a little more than ten minutes' walk to the main Skytrain stop; I'll forgive it that, since the walk's pretty flat and has the choice of "interesting" or "quiet and tree-lined."
Housing requirements:
  • Under $650,000
  • Allows two cats.
  • Two bedrooms, both of which can comfortably fit a queen-sized bed and one of which can fit two dressers (or one with lots of closet space)
  • A balcony (small is okay), or at least a sunroom
  • Wall-space for bookcases
All successful. The queen bed is a little tight in the second bedroom and there's not quite as much bookcase-space as we might have wanted. Instead of a balcony we got a patio, which I think is an improvement.
Housing effectively-requirements:
  • Dishwasher and in-suite laundry. Not a requirement if everything else is perfect and there's room for a portable dishwasher/washer/dryer.
  • 850 sqft. Not a requirement, but given the bedroom and bookcase requirements, it may as well be.
Ha. Missed both of these. The place is pretty intelligently laid-out, which makes the 836 sqft acceptable (just). The lack of insuite laundry counts as one of the few things that may drive us nuts.
Housing nice-to-haves:
  • Under $625,000
  • Low-rise (six floors or smaller)
  • Windows that can make a crossbreeze
  • Den/office/third bedroom
  • Storage room, either in the unit or elsewhere in the building
  • Gas stove
  • Gas fireplace
  • Windows that slide open rather than hinging open
  • Built-in window screens
  • Overhead lighting / ceiling fans
  • Built-in microwave
  • Large bathtub
  • Allows barbecues
  • Not south-facing
About half:
  • There's no crossbreeze, which may be deathly in the summer; no way to tell until July.
  • The storage room is referred to on the floorplan as a "den" but is basically unusable for the purpose.
  • There's no gas, which makes me sad.
  • There's overhead lighting ... but the fixtures are set towards the backs of the rooms to maximise light during the day, which means that ceiling fans aren't an option unless we move the fixtures (ugh).
  • There's no built-in microwave or large bathtub. Redoing the kitchen cabinets is very high on the priority list, and we can get a microwave then; redoing the bathroom is a much larger project and will be undertaken next fall if we decide we're serious about staying here.
  • It's south facing ... but there are a lot of trees, which will hopefully mitigate the oppressive summer heat, and this place isn't a glass greenhouse like the last two.
Curiously absent from that list, in retrospect, is "A second bathroom," which is also lacking.

We move in next Monday. Ask me again in a month but I think we'll be reasonably happy there.
jazzfish: a fairy-door in a tree, caption $900/MONTH + UTILITIES (The Vancouver rental market)
... actually not all that many: the end of the VP reunion, [REDACTED] ("it feels like I said 'That mountain over there looks like it's got a nice view' and next thing I know I'm hanging off the back of a motorcycle, whipping along twisty cliffside roads at 150 kph"), and housing. It just seems that way. Sleep will help.

housing )
jazzfish: a fairy-door in a tree, caption $900/MONTH + UTILITIES (The Vancouver rental market)
A few weeks ago we saw a place that we liked enough to put in a bid on. Sadly, we got outbid: foiled by the selling agent's utter apathy and incompetence, which caught our agent Rhonda by surprise. (A sample: when you're selling a condo there are certain documents you're supposed to have available, such as strata bylaws, council minutes, a depreciation report if one exists, a list of recent or upcoming major work on the building, that kind of thing. Dude had none of those, and in fact said to Rhonda "hey... i see you bought a unit in this building earlier this year, so you must have copies of the strata documents, can i have those?") I'm still a little bitter about that but mostly over it. The bylaws technically only allowed for one cat, and it looked out over an occasionally busy street so noise would have still been an issue. Oh well.



Earlier this week I walked the couple of blocks from work to take a look at another unit. It was ... questionable on the inside: awful paint and wallpaper, some old water damage, and carpet and applicances that look like they went in with the building thirty years ago. (The microwave over the stove has big clicky pushbuttons and no turntable.) I liked the layout, though, and the roof deck, and the fact that it cut my commute by an order of magnitude.

Last night [personal profile] uilos and Rhonda and I went out for a closer look. Rhonda pointed out a number of things that basically amount to "this is a fantastic investment property": the roof deck has a great view of downtown and the mountains, the location is spectacular and will only get better in 5-10 years when the Broadway skytrain line comes in, and the cosmetic damage can be dealt with for substantially less than the likely appreciation value of the property. They both noted some additional hopefully-old-and-only-cosmetic damage. [personal profile] uilos also pointed out the lack of storage space, and the tininess of the kitchen, which I had missed in my amazement at the thirty-year-old appliances.

[personal profile] uilos was understandably not thrilled with the prospect of having to do, or pay someone to do, an awful lot of work on the place. I wasn't happy with that myself, but the fact that the layout worked so well, together with the commute, meant I spent much of the evening trying to talk her into it. We went round a bit, and realised that the strata claimed to have a gas line running to it so the useless wood fireplace could probably be retrofitted to gas after all, and decided to sleep on it.

This morning she said "I've been thinking about it and I can make everything work except the kitchen. There's no possible way to get enough space in there."

I thought about it for a few seconds and said "Crap. You're right."

The unit's a townhouse, which as near as I can tell is Canadian for "apartment with stairs." The floorplan shows two levels but each of those is cut in half by a three- or four-step flight. One of these semi-levels consists of the kitchen, dining room, and balcony. There's no way to make the kitchen any bigger without cutting into the middle of the dining room, and there's no way to get additional counterspace or cabinet-space or pantry-space without embiggening the kitchen.

It is, I am telling myself, just as well. I'd really rather not spend down my entire retirement savings to date on making my house livable, and I'm not 100% sold on the area. And in spite of the cosmetic damage we'd almost certainly get outbid anyway.

Be nice to not have to look at places anymore, though.
jazzfish: Jazz Fish: beret, sunglasses, saxophone (Default)
Last month we put Chaos the old white cat on a small dose of gabapentin. In people this is an anti-anxiety med. I'm told it doesn't actually numb the pain in his back legs, but it makes him care less about it. He's definitely up and moving a lot more and may be getting some muscle mass in his hips again, which would be good. He's also feeling enough better to insist on LAP TIME anytime anyone is home, and to occasionally take out his frustrations on Kai the little brown cat. (Kai is also old but not really showing it, except for how her "dilute-tortie" coat grows more dilute each year.)

I went down to Portland last weekend with Steph and Kat A--, to see / meet a handful of west-coast VP folk. It was good to just hang out with some pretty decent new people for awhile, and talk shop or books or cats or whatever.

We stopped at Powell's on the way back, which was of course amazing. I somehow got out with only $50 in books. That could easily have quadrupled or more if I'd had the chance to see more than two-ish of their five floors. Definitely going back at some point.

And the sun had come out, and Kat's car is a zippy BMW convertible, so we put the top down for the trip home and I sunburnt my scalp. Worth it, though. I'm beginning to come 'round on road-trips, at least ones with good company and frequent short stops.

House-hunting eats up a stupid amount of time and brainpower. There are just enough maybes on the market that I keep checking online to see if anything new has come up, and going out to look at the possibles, and being mildly (at best) disappointed. All this takes time and makes it hard to schedule things for evenings and weekends. Bleh.

Two open houses tonight. Perhaps one of them will work out. If nothing else November and December are likely to be dead times, and then it'll kick back into gear come spring.

oof

Aug. 14th, 2016 08:03 pm
jazzfish: an open bottle of ether, and George conked out (Ether George)
Home from wedding (someone else's) in nearly-Oregon. Survived the week of many minor stresses, to wit:
  • House-hunting in Vancouver is stupid. The first realtor I talked to said straight out "I cannot in good conscience sell anyone a condo in an older building, and that's all you can afford. Have you thought about looking much further out?" Thankfully the agent we went with is willing to a) wait for the right place to come up, and b) do a lot of due diligence on older buildings if that's what we're interested in. Meanwhile prices continue to climb despite sales slowing down. I don't understand how that works either.
  • Company got acquired. I'm still employed, I figure 60-80% chance of still being employed this time next month, but still, hectic.
  • A couple of my good friends are having problems. Nothing that can't be worked out, I expect, but no fun in the meantime.
  • Partly as a result of that one of them dropped out of RPG night, necessitating a scramble for a replacement and also some quiet freaking-out over whether I've done something stupid as GM. (Or as a human being, but I freak out about that all the time anyway, that's nothing new.)
  • And to top it all off, on Thursday night Chaos (the arthritic, hyperthyroid, kidney-failing, stud-tailed, no-longer-diabetic stubborn-as-hell cat) started heavily favoring his right hind foot, to the extent of not being willing/able to put any weight on it, even to climb up onto the couch to sit with people. He spent Friday hiding under the bed, partly to get away from the piledriving across the street but probably partly because he was miserable and in pain.
Oof.

Fall over now, I think. Things what I fully intend to post about this week:
  • Aforementioned wedding, incl. good conversation with Dr HawkWhale (WhaleHawk?)
  • Twenty years on the Van Gogh boat, or, me and Julian Schnabel's Basquiat
  • My senior year English teacher died last week, and I wish that mattered more to me (It doesn't; condolences aren't necessary)
  • Housing in Vancouver is beyond stupid

Meanwhile, onward.
jazzfish: Jazz Fish: beret, sunglasses, saxophone (Default)
I've said for a long time that I don't really want to own my own home. I have zero interest in living in a detached house at all: yards are the devil, and a house is just one neverending weekend project. And renting means being able to call someone else when the sink breaks, or the water heater goes out. Conversely, buying a condo means having to convince a majority of everyone else in the building to pay for things like structural repairs & maintenance, versus kicking it down the road. (I believe much of the United States is currently watching this play out in slow motion.)

A couple of years ago, when we were looking to move out of Coal Harbour, we kicked around the idea of buying a condo in a new development that was going up in Chinatown. As part of that we also kicked around the idea of buying a condo somewhere else. Ultimately that went nowhere, in large part because we're cheapskates and Vancouver real estate is a decades-old bubble that shows no sign of popping anytime in the near future. Instead we moved out to New Westminster, closer to the Skytrain stop (and to groceries) but half an hour outside of downtown.

Two-plus years later, Vancouver real estate is if anything a *worse* decades-old bubble etc, the rental market is beyond terrible, and we're sick of living half an hour from nearly everything we want to do. (Notable exceptions to this last: really good poutine, the best barbecue in the Lower Mainland, and a couple of friends who live closer to New West than to Vancouver proper.) We've been looking for a place to rent for almost a year now with no success. Vancouver's rental market is obscenely pet-hostile, which rules out three-quarters of the possible hits right there, and biased towards Tiny Yet Overpriced, which doesn't work well with our library. And I strongly suspect, on admittedly very little hard evidence, that in the last year-plus there's been a proliferation of apartments being rented on AirBnB rather than to full-time tenants, because owners can make more money for less hassle that way.

So ... we're looking into buying a place. We're still cheapskates, but interest rates are low enough that that's only a problem and not a complete block. We're still picky; that hasn't changed, and if anything we'll be more picky if we're going to be someplace permanently. Though not a lot more picky, since neither of have a good grasp on what "living someplace permanently" means. That's, like, four years, right? And the Vancouver housing market is terrible but it's likely to *stay* terrible, so at least we probably won't lose money by buying in at the top of the bubble, unlike certain siblings of mine.

Fun times.

(Feel free to amuse yourself by browsing the MLS listings for Vancouver, in case you thought I was kidding about "decades-old housing bubble that shows no sign of popping.")

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Adventures in Mamboland

"Jazz Fish, a saxophone playing wanderer, finds himself in Mamboland at a critical phase in his life." --Howie Green, on his book Jazz Fish Zen

Yeah. That sounds about right.

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