Settling in to Silver Spring

Running to the playgroundWe completed the purchase of our new house last Thursday, December 3. We moved in on Monday of this week. Since then we’ve been opening boxes, hanging pictures, getting to know our way around, etc.

The kids like the new place, and already feel at home here. Here they are running toward the nearest playground. As you can see, it looks like a castle in the woods, with a color scheme very similar to that of Max’s winter coat.

Maddie is looking forward to starting at Highland Elementary School on Monday. We went there this morning to do paperwork and to visit. Max smelled and saw the pizza that was for school lunch today, and was very upset that he couldn’t have any.

We’re in the Wheaton-Glenmont area of Silver Spring, in Montgomery County Maryland. That puts us near the Red line of the DC Metro. I think that the Metro will make a welcome change from the Boston T.

Good Luck Balloon Leaves Roslindale

I packed up the last things from the Roslindale apartment on Wednesday morning. To be more precise, they should have been the last things, but I was so tired I probably missed a few things. And a lot of things I threw out.

And one thing, I let float away. We had a helium balloon bearing the slogan Good Luck left over from a weekend potluck. I took it out onto the deck, and let it float away. It too was tired, so it didn’t spring straight up into the air. Rather, it floated across Walworth Street, rising enough to clear wires and rooftops.

May the balloon of good luck float toward you, good people of Boston.

About to Miss Boston

I’ve been in semi-denial (or at least some fraction of denial) about leaving Boston, but having just told the US Postal Service to forward mail to Silver Spring, Maryland seems to stamp the move with enough reality that denial is no longer an option. I’m missing some people and places already, and I’ll probably post about things I miss sometime in 2010.

Universal Adam pointed to a “missing Boston” post from Alex Howard, who made a similar move earlier this year. I’m already with with Alex on several of the items on his list, such as Jamaica Pond and the Arnold Arboretum.

Craigslist Before Moving

The less stuff you have to move, the easier the move. We’ve been trying to live by that as we prepare to move from Boston to DC. We’ve lightened the load in many ways: giving things to friends, donating things to thrift stores, putting stuff out on trash day, and… Craigslist.

I’ve been disappointed with the response on Craigslist. Items such as air conditioners, humidifiers, didn’t get any responses. We managed to sell a bookshelf (several people responded, we sold it to the person who could come and collect it) and a small couch (we delivered).

Still, that’s probably what would have happened had we used classified ads, back in the day.

Real Estate: Buying May Be Trying

It’s time for some real estate ramblings about buying, to go with those about selling. We have found a house we like in the DC area, have made an offer on it, and are cleared to borrow the necessary.

We were surprised to find that the seller and our likely lender are one and the same organization. In hindsight, we shouldn’t be, since the place is a foreclosure, which means that the organization that made the last loan on the place now owns it.

Does the fact that the lender and the seller are the same organization make things run particularly smoothly? I’ve heard the view that it should: after all, the lender is in the lending business, and doesn’t really want to be in the property-owning business. We’re giving it a chance to increase its lending activity and reduce its property-owning distraction.

That positive answer is consistent with the assumption that different parts of the same large organization work together well. There are many terms for that assumption: optimistic; heroic; not well supported by empirical evidence.

I think that this sale will go through, but it ain’t over until the large seller signs.

Smarter Navigation and Closed Streets

Consider this: social media tools are making it easier for people to get around the places they live. Mashable Josh followed that assertion with “a list of ten great social media tools to help you better navigate your city.” I marked Josh’s post, thinking that I might have cause and time to go back and actually read it.

Then a real live navigation-related problem sent me back to the post and to some of the tools it lists. This Sunday should see the second open house (the first one went well, thankyouverymuch) for our condo. Said condo is about a hundred yards from the route of the 2009 Roslindale Parade. The two events are as close in terms of time as they are in terms of space, in that both are scheduled for Sunday afternoon.

This presents several real-life problems. To make them concrete, let’s imagine that one of the people who would attend the open house is called Robin (a name that could indicate either a female or a male, and one with connotations of nesting).

Problem (0) is the basic navigation problem: how to get to the condo. That’s too easy to qualify as smart navigation, but I list it as the baseline navigation problem. It’s the nail for which the standard hammer used to be MapQuest. Google Maps has, I think, taken over that position; anyway, it is the first tool on Josh’s list of ten.

Problem (1) gets us into smart navigation territory. Robin, on the way to the condo for the open house, finds that some of the roads on the suggested route are closed. A smart navigation tool would tell Robin about a route available at the time – in real time, if you will. Google Maps addresses problem (1), as does Waze, the second tool on the list.

Problem (2) involves smarter navigation. Robin knows ahead of time that certain roads will be closed due to the parade, and would like to be able to print the map ahead of time. Perhaps Robin suspects that real real-time navigation is a bad idea, since it distracts attention from driving.

Perhaps Robin wants a map of the parade route. All right, perhaps I do. The parade’s web site doesn’t provide one. It provides a text description of the route. “Washington St. at Adams Park in Roslindale Village, to South St., to Belgrade Avenue, to West Roxbury Parkway, to Gottwald Rotary, to Centre St., to South St., and ending at Fallon Field.”

Is there a tool that takes text directions as input and gives a route map and directions as output? I’m not aware of one. I tried to use Google Maps to draw the route along a street map, but it kept on taking shortcuts, or going 20 miles north to a different Gottwald Rotary, or…

Then I went to the third tool on Josh’s list. He describes Wayfaring as “a great Google Maps mashup that helps users to easily create their own information maps.” I have to describe it as a service that gave me a “404 – page not found” error during signup, and then could not find a location called “boston massachusetts.”

At that point I gave up on this particular attempt to use these “smarter navigation tools.” My frustration didn’t just come from the web tools. It also came from my overlapping attempts to find out from the police the times at which the parade roads would be closed and reopened. I was transferred from the local station, to media relations, to field services, to special events (I think I have those names right) before I had the sense to give up.

I do have a couple of positive notes on which to end. First, I did get an answer to my street closing times question. I used the contact form on the Roslindale Parade website. I got a prompt response from Tom Donahue, chair of the parade committee, by good old-fashioned email. Tom expects Belgrade Avenue to be closed from about noon to about 3:30pm, by the way. The other good news is that the open house is going ahead (starting at 11:30 instead of noon).

Real Estate Ramblings: Pilot

Max Fascinated by Pod and TruckReal Estate Ramblings (RER) is a new series. This is the pilot post/episode, in which the plot is set in motion, and the main characters introduced.

The plot concerns a move from Boston to Washington DC. Three of the main plot strands are: selling property in Boston; buying property in, or near, DC; and the actual move.

The family on the move provides four of the main characters:

  • Pack Dog, one of the parents, who tends to hoard stuff. PD would be called Pack Rat were it not for RER’s use of Chinese astrology, whereby each character’s name includes the animal of birth year.
  • Minimalist Pig, the other parent, who sees the move as an opportunity to shed ugly excess possessions.
  • Lovable Lamb, the older of the two kids, and the big sister of…
  • Playful Puppy, the youngest member of the family. His parents hope that he will be out of diapers before the move: PP himself isn’t making any promises.

Other key characters include the agents. Roger Johnson is helping with the purchase a house in the DC area.

Ellen Grubert and Janis Lippman are the agents for the sale of the Boston property. To be more specific, the property is a condo in Boston’s friendliest neighborhood, and here’s the condo’s page at E&J’s site.

The frame from the pilot episode shows PP marveling at what he sees as the sudden arrival of a huge and mysterious box. We’ll learn more about this box during the RER season. Stay tuned!