My Experiences with the Bellair Airporter

I’ve noticed their buses on I-5 for decades, so I presumed that, given this is a well-established business, it was a reliable option for getting to Sea-Tac. Given that the only flight to my destination originating from the local Bellingham airport left at 5:00 am, it was a relief to know I could take the bus to Seattle (at a sane hour of the day) instead of flying down and changing planes there.

So I go online and make my reservation. Their web site was a little dated-looking, but it seemed to work fine. I promptly got a message saying my reservation was confirmed.

Then I get another e-mail a few minutes later saying there was a problem with billing my credit card and to call customer service. So I call customer service. They can’t find my reservation at all. They make another reservation for me.

Then I notice that there are not one, but two charges from them on my credit card. So I have to call again to straighten that mess out.

The day of my trip comes, and I arrive early at the bus stop. The bus doesn’t show at the appointed time. Having learned the hard way how lacking customer service and quality control tend to be in American business, I call them and ask if there’s any problems.

“We didn’t even send the bus to that stop because there were no reservations from it.” Turns out that when they made the new reservation to me, they made it wrong, for a bus leaving an hour later.

So I had to hurry home and drive to the airport on the spur of the moment (through horrible Seattle traffic, and I hate driving in Seattle traffic) to save my flight.

And now I see that they failed to properly refund all the money for the reservation they botched.

That’s right, I’m now up to four interactions with them, for something that should have taken just one interaction, and literally every interaction has gone wrong (and at their fault) in some way.

I’m starting to realize why Alaska Airlines can get people to wake at o-dark-thirty to catch that 5:00 am flight of theirs.

A Quick Update

The Arctic Outflow Event Is Over

Not really a surprise, as such things seldom tend to last much longer than a week, anyhow. It only took a few days of temperatures above freezing both night and day to dispatch the snow that fell.

What was a surprise was how it ended: mild air started invading Wednesday night, but very slowly. Still, by the wee hours of the morning temperatures had climbed well into the forties Fahrenheit. Then, the surprise: the arctic air reasserted itself. The slush refroze. The cold weather then lasted for two more days before the inevitable happened.

A Surprise Job Opportunity

Someone wants to interview me for a local tech job. The interview process is somewhat unusual and plays to one of my strengths (teaching people). But there’s also a host of potential mismatches between myself and the employer. Time will tell on this one.

GUI Programming Is a Real PITA

I always knew it was; that’s why I’ve not done much of it up to this point. But boy, is it slow and tedious. It literally takes days of reading documentation and slow experimentation to accomplish the simplest things.

Part of the issue is that what I’m trying to do is somewhat unusual: I’m displaying multiple text panes within a scrollable area, using an area that is dynamically created and updated. Most programs don’t dynamically generate windows (with varying numbers of components) in their GUI’s, and virtually all programs just put a single text pane inside a scrollable region, and they want that pane to automatically grow to be as large as the whole region.

And this is with the Java Swing library, which is well-known, stable, and well-documented. I couldn’t imagine how painful the process would be in the sketchily-documented, ever-changing native Apple GUI libraries. Thankfully, the unusual part of the application is now basically complete; what remains is much more conventional GUI programming.

Arctic Outflow

Today’s high was 19˚F. In Seattle that would break a record. Here in Bellingham, it’s definitely much colder than normal, but the record is still significantly colder. We’re close to the mouth of the Fraser Canyon, and if the interior of British Columbia fills up with frigid air, it can spill through that canyon and hit us without having to pass over any salt water to moderate it.

The arrival of the arctic front was dramatic. My building shuddered as a sudden gust of northeasterly wind hit it. The falling snow changed from sloppy and wet to dry and powdery. Within a half-hour, any wet pavement surfaces that had not been treated had flash-frozen.

Tonight it is snowing and 14˚F. That’s cold enough to experience something rare on the West Coast: snow that squeaks when you walk on it. That’s a fairly common occurrence in a continental climate, but I never once experienced it in Seattle. Here, the cold snaps really are a taste of what winter is like in a continental climate.

But only a taste. Within about 24 hours, the wind will shift. When that happens, the arctic air will depart as quickly as it arrived. The ocean is right here, ready to supply mild air the moment the wind resumes its normal westerly to southwesterly direction. The departure of the cold snap will be as abrupt as its arrival was.

And that’s the way I want things to be. The past few days have been fun because they have been a departure from the norm. Were they the norm, these conditions would become tiresome and unpleasant. Winter would mean not a green thing in sight, and spring would mean waiting seemingly forever for all the snow that accumulated in winter to melt, and all the while it melted it would get increasingly dirty and drab.

A Belated Post-Thanksgiving Check-In

Not much to report recently save the somewhat frustrating experience I had on Thanksgiving. I was visiting some old friends in Seattle, and one of them, who works as a hydrologist, was having no end of trouble analyzing a batch of huge data files. The root of her troubles was that the software she was using was attempting to load the entire file in memory before operating on it.

That was highly frustrating for me to observe, because:

  1. All indications are that it was probably unnecessary to load the entire file into memory (i.e. it was possible to process it on a record-by-record basis).
  2. If so, I could easily correct the above problem.
  3. That their lack of computer expertise is causing this one project to be adversely impacted indicates that it’s unlikely to be the only such project; odds are this is merely the tip of an iceberg.
  4. I don’t work there, therefore I am not allowed to address such problems.
  5. I’ve been unable to convince anyone who does work there and who has the authority to hire me (either as a contractor, or as an employee) to so much as meet with me.

Better Late than Never, I Guess

I’m now starting to get discount offer after discount offer from local big box stores, because they figure that as a new homeowner in the neighborhood, I might be in the market for a number of things, and they might as well try to build a relationship with me and become a store of choice.

Close, but no cigar. I was in a market for a number of things during my first month here. However, that moving-in phase is now mostly over. The last thing I did, I completed yesterday: correcting the undersized electric heaters.

Like most every place with electric heat that I’ve ever lived in, for some reason the builders decided to shave a few dollars more in profit by installing heaters that are ridiculously undersized (as in, about half the recommended heat output, given the living space). This they do despite the electricians installing wiring which is capable of serving the recommended wattage. Electric heater design has been very stable for decades, so the same manufacturers are still making the same exact models they were 20 years ago when this building was constructed. Therefore, it was a simple matter of swapping out the inadequate heater for an adequate one. For good measure, I swapped out the line-voltage thermostat, too, because I couldn’t find a rating for the old one and therefore wasn’t certain it could handle the new, higher current load.

But I digress. The heater upgrade was the last major thing on my move-in to-do list. I was going to put it off for several more weeks, but we’re having an early cool spell and as it turns out the inadequate heater was also making an annoying random rattling noise. Turns out that that was merely a foreign object in the fan area, but by that point I had already taken it apart and de-installed it. Might as well just replace the thing since I’d already done about half that job by the time I made that discovery.

So, I doubt I’ll make much use of any of those coupons.

Yes, yes, I know: it takes time for the public records of real estate purchases to filter through the system enough for marketers to be aware of them, so they can’t be blamed for the slowness. It’s still slowness, however. The reason for it doesn’t matter. Makes one wonder how much that tactic actually works for generating new customers.

Made It

Well, I made it. By some miracle, all the transactions closed on time Friday. Today was moving day and it went uneventfully. Now for the unpacking, cleaning up, fixing up, and customization at the new place.

It’s been something of an emotionally costly experience. I think this is for several reasons:

  1. I’ve never done a “leap of faith” move like this. The closest was in 2012 when I moved to Seattle without a job on the line. But then, I was pretty sure I could find one in my field, sogtware development (and I did, because at that point I had not quite aged to the point of becoming virtually unemployable in that field). This time, I’m not even sure what I will do for income yet (though I have some ideas).
  2. I put more of myself into my previous home than at any other home I’ve ever had. In Portland, I had a lot of my vision implemented by others. That was fun, and the result was great, but this time I did the painting and drywall work myself, teaching myself how to do the latter. Plus, I did more gardening than I’ve done anywhere else I’ve lived. Leaving all that has been like leaving a bit of myself behind.
  3. I’m older, and there’s probably an older person’s desire for stability at play here, too.

Maybe the thing to do at this point is to simply have more faith in the future. Going into this move, I really doubted that I’d be able to do what I just did: move from one owned home directly to another, without having to make any intermediate stop in temporary rental housing.

E-Begging, or, Needs versus Wants

It seems as if GoFundMe requests are proliferating in my social network.

Now, if the predominant motive behind such requests were genuine instances of needs, such as food, clothing, shelter, or health care, I’d find it upsetting because it serves as evidence the economy is failing increasingly more people.

Most requests, however, are not for needs; they are for wants, things like name changes, transatlantic plane fares, recreational vehicles (that are used recreationally and not as a primary residence) and whatnot. I find that upsetting because of the whiny attitude of self-centered entitlement it represents.

Sorry, e-beggars, your wants are your problem—not mine. Figure out how to fund them yourself. I believe people are entitled to the necessities of life, but I do not believe anyone is entitled to luxuries at my expense.

That’s particularly the case given that we’re in a world where so many people are lacking basic needs, and in one where I am myself a person of limited means who can’t dream of things like taking a transatlantic vacation. And, guess what? I don’t go begging to other people to fund such luxuries which are unaffordable to me.

If I once more become able to afford discretionary donations, rest assured I will be making such donations to those who need them, not those who merely want them. After all, every dollar I would donate to fund a mere want is a dollar I cannot donate to fund a geniune need.

Looks Like I’m Turning Into a Hamster

A Bellinghamster, that is. (Yes, that’s the real demonym for a resident of Bellingham.)

Seeing as how I’ve aged to the point where I’m basically unemployable in the tech industry in Seattle (type “tech industry age discrimination” into a search engine; it’s rather enlightening, or should I say depressing) I had originally planned to cut my costs by moving to Bremerton or the Kitsap Peninsula. I could probably afford an entire modest house for the equity in my expensive condo on Bainbridge Island. (My move to the Island, in fact, was predicated on the assumption that I needed to be close to the big city so I could take one of tech jobs available there.) Then I’d have an easier time with my radio hobby (unrestricted right to erect antennas) and significantly lower living costs. Major win!

I had even gone to the point of looking at properties for sale in Bremerton in order to familiarize myself with the market. Then one evening while falling asleep it hit me: what’s really most important to me is my activism for a more wild and free world, and Bremerton frankly isn’t really the best place to pursue such things. (For openers, it’s even further from Seattle than Bainbridge Island, and the ferry ride to the big city from here has been enough of a damper on my activism as it is.)

As such, I’d probably be better off if I gave up the dream about a better ham radio situation; overall, ham radio is just a hobby, not a core motivating interest in my life. This is not even a very radical or dramatic conclusion; the Radio Amateur’s Code has this to say: “The Radio Amateur is… BALANCED. Radio is a hobby, never interfering with duties owed to family, job, school, or community [emphasis added].”

The two places that came to mind were the college towns of Olympia and Bellingham. The latter I almost rejected, due to it being too expensive. That was something of a pity, as I’ve always really liked Bellingham and fantasized about moving there some day. Then I remembered that: a) it’s been a long time since I sussed out the Bellingham real estate market, and b) when I did, it was with an eye on buying a small house, not a condo. As such, it was worth doing some basic research on Bellingham before rejecting it based on incomplete and only partially applicable information.

And lo, I found that there seemed to be condos in my price range on the market there. Of course, that’s just pictures and glad words on the web. There can be no substitute for actually seeing things in person. Maybe they’re far tattier once one actually sees them, or are reeking of old pet urine, or have some other show-stopper.

But, for the most part, they weren’t. They were just what they seemed to be online: modest, decent condos that I could afford to own outright. Even more surprisingly, Bellingham was actually slightly less expensive than Olympia, despite it being my first choice of a place to downsize to.

Anyhow, to make a long story a little less long, I made a contingent offer on a condo in Bellingham a couple weeks ago. One of the things that sold me on it is that it has access to an attic that antennas can be concealed inside. But it was a contingent offer, which depended on my current place selling.

Depressingly, the market seems to have slowed a lot here on Bainbridge Island in the past year. Units where I live no longer sell for over asking price within 24 hours of being listed like they have for years. I had scores of looky-loos tramp through my place, but no offers. Well, one offer, but it was so insultingly low that my agent felt free to tell the buyer to take a hike without even running his asking price by me first.

Then, today, out of the blue, not one but two offers come in within minutes of each other. Go figure. Anyhow, I decided to go with the one contingent on VA financing over the all-cash offer because that buyer was willing to pay me more money for a deal that would take longer to close. More money is definitely something I need at this stage in my life.

So, it’s really starting to look as if the move is going to happen. I hadn’t posted about it earlier due to the fear of jinxing it, but I feel fairly safe posting about it now.

And Un-Scratch That

The deal that fell through is on again. Late Friday morning, I received a call that the offer that beat me out had collapsed and the property was back on the market. So I made a last-minute trip north to inspect it in person. It looked as good as it seemed online, so I told my agent to prepare an offer.

Then, since I was most of the way to Boston Bar, I decided to take my friends who have a summer home there up on the standing invitation to visit them, since it was going to take a few days to prepare all the paperwork needed in making a contingent offer anyhow.

It’s all been signed, so now comes the waiting. There’s still a frightfully large number of ways this all could fall through:

  1. The seller accepts someone else’s offer (not out of the picture, given how quickly that place attracted the first offer).
  2. The seller does some random flaky thing (also not out of the picture, given how the seller jumped on a quickie offer so soon instead of doing the more typical thing of waiting for multiple offers to come in, if one offer comes in surprisingly fast).
  3. My current place either fails to sell, or fails to get an offer for enough money to afford the place in Bellingham (also a possibility, given how slow interest has been in it so far).