Posts Tagged 'friendly'

We Found A House!

It’s been awhile since I was last able to post and part of that is that we were able to find a house here in Northampton, MA. We got to move in the beginning of May so we’ve been kind of busy settling in.

The first thing I have to say is that this house actually spoiled us. It cost us ? of what we got for our home in San Francisco and it really needs very little work. It’s a three bedroom/one bathroom house at the moment, but we’re going to change that. The way houses are sold here is a little bit different so I’ll have to explain a bit.

The listed size isn’t really the size of the house. Our house was listed as being only 1334 sq. ft. which compared to the 1511 sq ft we had in San Francisco sounds smaller, but the concept of livable space is a little different here.

  1. There’s a room connecting the garage to the house that is sort of a mudroom/laundry room. It’s 300 sq ft, but isn’t considered livable space so it wasn’t included in the overall size of the house.
  2. Basements are in pretty much every house and not considered livable space. We have a finished basement that we’re adding in a 4th bedroom, full bathroom, office/studio, media room and storage. Total area of the basement after we’re finished is 900 sq ft. Even though basements aren’t considered livable space they are used for more than junk storage here and it’s not unusual to find bedrooms and bathrooms and workshops, game rooms, movie theater, man cave, etc in the basement. 
  3. Total square footage for the house is actually 2534 sq ft.

The house itself is on ? acre of land to compare that to our home in San Francisco, we could fit four and half of our old home plus the backyard into the space we got here…for ? the cost of what our house sold for in San Francisco.

It’s a pretty quiet neighborhood about five minutes from downtown Florence [a village that’s a part of Northampton] and eight to ten minutes from downtown Northampton or Easthampton. The people are all very nice and friendly around here and there is plenty of wildlife running around. I get up in the mornings and pour myself a cup of coffee and look out into my backyard and notice the tons of squirrels and chipmunks and rabbits running around our backyard. We inherited some bird feeders and bird houses so we have blue jays, cardinals and chickadees holing up in them and having babies right now.

Probably the best thing about the backyard is that it really is usable unlike our overgrow terraced backyard in the Sunset District. I do miss looking out my dining room window to see some of the ocean, but looking out into a forest isn’t that bad either. I’m sure people who live on the hills in SF would agree with me.

The summer has been a bit on the warm side being in the upper 90’s for a week, but now we’re down in the comfortable low 80’s. Luckily we have central air conditioning and heating so heat and cold aren’t a problem for us. In addition to that little downside there are bugs. Ants are different here. We don’t have any coming into the house, but we have tons of little ant hills outside in the front and back of the house. There are also little gnats which are only annoying when they buzz up to your ear and you think it’s a mosquito or one of the wasps that there are quite a few of as well. I’ve heard there are ticks here, but I haven’t seen any yet. 

As for getting down to dollars and cents, houses around us run around the $230k-$500k price range. They’re a little newer on poured concrete foundations. As you get closer to town the homes are a bit more on the historic side so they’ll have brick or fieldstone foundations and have been messed with over the years because it’s not unusual to found homes built in the early 1800’s here. When you look at the layouts of these homes you’re reminded that people lived a lot different back then and while there’s been a lot of remodeling there are still a few odd quirks you can find in the houses.

I’ve almost finished getting my video studio up so the videos will return shortly.

Ridesharing Get The Go Ahead!

Side•CarOn Thursday, September 19th the California Public Utilities Commission voted 5-0 in favor of accepting the ridesharing technology as a legitimate business in California. While it has started in San Francisco due to the need of people to get from point A to point B and not have to wait an hour for a taxi it has grown into something more than that.

As a public disclaimer, I do drive for Side•Car so I am a little bit biased in this area I’ll admit, but I also have lots of people around town who also take taxi’s and even friends who are taxi drivers to fill me in on this so keep this in mind.

To make things clear from the beginning for those who have been trying to get a taxi and had trouble here are some of the reasons why.

  1. Taxi Companies are in the business of renting taxis: There is no incentive for a company to get you from point A to point B. The taxi companies make their money from renting the taxis or in short, they don’t make money from you taking a taxi, but from the drivers who rent the taxis.
  2. There is a combined total of roughly 1200 taxis available in San Francisco: This is split between all of the taxi companies. If you call for a cab to say, Yellow Cab which is the largest you have about 400 taxis available. This cuts the availability of taxis to riders significantly.
  3. It’s much easier to hail a taxi on the street than call for a pick up: Cab drivers are not employees of the cab companies, but independent contractors so they are under no obligation to pick up a call that is requested. There is no require of a cab driver to do anything other than pay for the taxi rental and return it with a full tank of gas at the end of the shift. Anything they do in between is up to them.

Do you see a problem here? Granted, ridesharing companies such as Side•Car, Lyft and Uber aren’t under a requirement to get you from point A to point B either, but there is a psychological mind set amongst the drivers that works in their favor. While there are a few who drive solely for income it is still not the same as a job. They can do it whenever they have free time and start and stop when they want so they can work it into their schedule.

Rideshare companies have been called elitist by cab companies saying that they won’t pick up low-income or elderly people who don’t own smartphones. I would disagree with this. I have had numerous people I’ve given rides to from 20-70 and all income levels in my car. I frequently drive through the Tenderloin or low-income areas that are underserved by taxis and notice quite a few people on the streets with smartphones. I frequently have picked up people at the local grocery stores who need a lift home with several bags of groceries and sometimes if I have the time I’ll help them unload and carry their bags in. I also have people call for me that need their parents picked up and dropped off in various locations around town so it is definitely a scalable technology. Smartphones are also being given away at this point in time and who in their right mind in this day and age doesn’t own a smartphone that calls for a ride? Last time I checked the majority of low-income people don’t take cabs, but wait for the bus using a state subsidized clipper card.

The biggest boon to riders is that if you are outside the downtown or Mission District you can now get a ride. The Sunset, Richmond, Ingelside and Oceanview areas are a no man’s land for getting a cab. I can’t even count the number of people in the Sunset or Richmond who’s said how great rideshare services are because they simply can’t get a cab in those areas.

Now regarding the safety of vehicles in participating in ridesharing there have been a few new requirements.

  1. Each company must keep a $1 million dollar insurance policy to cover each driver in excess of each driver’s insurance.
  2. Each company must maintain a strict drug and alcohol policy [as in no drugs or alcohol]
  3. A 19 point vehicle inspection is required of each vehicle someone driving for the companies must undergo.

There are other points, but these are the safety issues some people might be concerned with. All of these except the last have been met previously. Since most of the companies require each car to be from the year 2000 or later the chance of one not passing a 19 point inspection is rare. I know most oil change companies provide a 21 point inspection when you get your oil changed and if you change it regularly like I do then you know exactly what is wrong with your car so you can get it fixed.

The decision affects not just the San Francisco Bay Area, but the entire state of California opening the door to ridesharing in parts of the state that may not be considered large enough to warrant taxi service. Overall the price of rideshare works out cheaper than a taxi because a tip is expected on top of the fare regardless of whether or not the driver gave you a good ride or not [but we won’t talk bad about you if you do tip]. The taxi system and the way it works doesn’t support the needs of the people it was meant to serve. Ridesharing companies offer more drivers at more times in more places around the Bay Area so it is easier to get to the people and to get them where they need to go. I’ve personally used the service several times and found that I never had to wait longer than five minutes. When I’m driving and I take a call that’s ten minutes away I frequently wish I didn’t have to make the person wait as long, but usually the drivers are happy that I’m at their door within the time noted by the GPS locator used by the apps. Probably the biggest reason I like driving for a rideshare company is that it takes me all over the city to see  what’s happening now and not in tomorrow’s newsfeed.

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Reel Mowing

When my Mom was alive she couldn’t mow the lawn and wanted to get rid of the old behemoth electric mower we had. She found a great gardener who was only charging $15 and he’s come and mow the lawn every other week. Then his prices started to go up until they were $30 each time and he’s only show up sometimes once a month. He wasn’t really doing anything else like fertilizing the lawn so there were weeds taking over and we decided to make a change.

I had used the old electric mower, but hated having to deal with the bag after wards and the fact that a lot never made it into the bag and sprayed all over the sidewalk. I had read up on reel mowers and found that if you mowed and just left the cut grass on your grass that it would break down adding more nitrogen to your soil meaning less fertilizer which is one of the things grass needs the most. So we went ahead and plunked down $60 on a low end reel mower by American Lawnmowers. From the reviews they said that if  you have anything growing too tall it won’t cut them and they were right. We have several weeds that are about 8″ long that just got pushed over and not cut so I had to pull those by hand.

We also had some other flat weeds that were the type that you could grab the weeds in hand and twist them around and get the root out. I did that first before starting to mow. Well I have to say that after smoothing out the piles of dirt the gophers dug up and pulling the weeds my wife estimated that it should take me about a half hour. When she says a half hour she always undercuts it expecting me to take longer so she can come out and ask me what I’m doing out there [Kind of like your Mom when you’re a teenager int he bathroom for too long].

Total time was less than 15 minutes and I actually felt a bit of a burn in my arms afterwards and was a little out of breath. Remember, I’m not an athlete and typically work desk jobs so this was a good work out for me. The results weren’t the best, but at the same time the lawn is studded with all kinds of grasses since the sod that was originally laid down wasn’t top shelf stuff and our neighbors have let their lawn turn into a veritable weed factory next door, but I’m suspecting with a little weed and feed and continued effort that within a month things will be looking better. from my research the grass we have is fescue and other cool weather grasses so we should let it grow to about 3″ before cutting it and cut it down to about 2″.  I was a little quick on the cut this time because while there were sections that were 3″, there was a lot that were barely an inch.

Reel mowers are not not known for doing edging very well, but we don’t have a fence on any sides and only have a bout 2′ of brick wall that makes it difficult so that wasn’t really a problem. I found that if I started cross ways and then when lengthwise it was easier, but I think next time I’m going to do cross and lengthwise  all the way across. I’ll get a better work out and then maybe I can pull out an old chaise lounge and a cooler full of beer and sit and talk with the neighbors about our front yard gardening. I also noticed last night that our automatic sprinklers had some wrong heads installed. There are wide and thin shot heads and with our lawn they could have been wide shots installed in the corners instead of wide on the sides and shorts on the ends. I’m going to have to make a trip down to Urban Gardeners nearby and ask them how to fix this since I don’t want to tear up the whole lawn and put new sod down and re-do the sprinkler system. While I can do simple plumbing, when plumbing and landscaping come together count me out.