Category Archives: travel

Decision review: Metropass instead of biking to work in November

After a pleasant weekend bike ride with W-, I thought I’d get back into the habit of biking to work.

I’d stopped in August because I didn’t want to risk damaging my new laptop. During a bumpy trip to the office, W’s previous laptop had bounced unnoticed out of his panniers and onto the road, where several passing trucks flattened it into a pancake. Fortunately, it was a work laptop, so replacement wasn’t difficult. If I damaged my spiffy new souped-up laptop, though, I’d probably regret it a bit. (Yes, stuff is stuff, but it’s okay to be cautious.) So I commuted via subway, wheeling along a small suitcase with my personal laptop and my work laptop.

The small suitcase’s wheels finally gave out, and I switched to bringing a backpack. It was tough with two computers, but fortunately I received a much-anticipated hardware upgrade at work. Because my new work laptop could handle running my development virtual machines and the programs we needed for work, I started leaving my personal laptop at home. This meant that I could bike into work if I wanted to.

I biked to work once. The next day, up much earlier than sunrise, I thought about whether I should just give in to the idea of getting a public transit pass instead of trying to tough it out and bike for as long as possible in November.

Biking: Exercise; ease of doing errands; will still prefer to take transit when rainy or snowy

Public transit pass (Metropass): $121

Public transit tokens: 40 tokens at $2.50 = $100, plus extra tokens if I need to go to the client site and the office on the same day.

Because a Metropass was not much more expensive than paying for public transit tokens, using the pass is more convenient than juggling tokens, I decided to go for a pass. Work covers the expense, but even if I were paying for it myself, I’d probably still make the same decision. With the transit tax credit of 15.25%, the after-tax cost comes out to around the same as buying tokens for weekday travel, and weekend travel would be a bonus.

I’m going to take the subway this month, although I might still bike if the weekends are pleasant. I’ll use the time to listen to podcasts like the Psych Files (behavioural psychology = hacking your brain) or to draft posts. Maybe I might even pick up a few more books for my Kindle. We’ll see. =)

Decision review: Cat boarding

We were going to be away for a week and a half, so we needed to make plans for our three cats. In the past, J- had done a little cat-sitting for us. I’d also asked a friend before, but that was for a weekend. With our cats occasionally throwing up or pooing outside the litter box when they’re upset, I didn’t want to inflict that on friends, even if I was happy to pay market rates. We wanted to make sure the cats were watched over and played with during the day, so we decided to give cat boarding a try.

Boarding cats is more expensive than hiring a cat sitter. We felt anxious about having someone else come into our house while we’re away, though, so we considered the difference a worthwhile premium for peace of mind – no litterbox accidents or throw-ups to worry about, and no worrying about stuff missing either. We also liked the ability to specify instructions like feeding Neko small, frequent meals – if you give her a lot of food in one go, she sometimes rushes and then throws up.

There was a small risk that the cats would pick up colds, ticks, or fleas from other cats, but we decided we could deal with that.

After calling up a few cat boarding places, we settled on Lonesome Kitty, a nearby cat boarding place. I checked out the location, and it seemed fine. The resident cats looked bright and alert, and none of them were obviously scratching themselves. We decided that it would be better to board there than with a veterinarian because vet offices tend to be busy (and occasionally full of sick animals!), so we e-mailed our confirmation. On the day before our flight, we dropped the cats off along with enough cat food for their stay.

After we got back, Luke and Leia sought attention more often than usual, and Neko had a cold. (The poor dear.) The cats were okay, though, and life returned to normal a week or so after we got back.

The cost of boarding three cats worked out to around $32 per day. A cat sitter would have cost around $23 per day. Lonesome Kitty has since then raised its prices to $36 for three cats / day.

2011-09-25 Sun 09:06

Stories from our trip: Furry caterpillar

ccattrib_copyleft_caterpillar_2007_zenera

From October 7: I skittered across the pool in the opposite direction from the floating divider and the furry caterpillar I glimpsed. It had huge hairs sticking out of it, which sometimes means major irritation, which means me being far away. W- was unperturbed. Amused, even.

"I think I’ve figured you out," W- said afterwards.

"Oh?"

"Yes! You: Furry cat? Okay. Furry caterpillar? Not okay."

I nodded.

"Jelly? Okay. Fish? Okay," he said. "Jellyfish? Not okay."

"Now that you put it that way, it makes a lot of sense."

Image © 2007 zenera, Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike License

Geek travel update: Mostly as planned

I planned my packing for the Oct 5 – Oct 15 trip to the Philippines using several matrices. Life worked out mostly as planned. This was how I thought it would work out:

  Cream tee White tee Pink tee Dress
Dress       2011-10-9
Brown skirt 2011-10-07   2011-10-10  
Stretch pants 2011-10-15 2011-10-05 2011-10-08  
Cargo pants 2011-10-13 2011-10-11 2011-10-06  
Board shorts   2011-10-14 2011-10-12  

I liked the planning method, so I built the analysis into my home dashboard. This is what my clothing logs tell me:

image

Here’s that listed by date (also from the same page):

Clothing item 04 05 06 07 08 09 10 11 12 13 14 15 Total
pink board shorts                   A     1
dark brown capri pants                     A   1
white Wanko lace       B     A           2
cream v-neck shirt                 A   A   2
rose shirt     A             A     2
brown cable sweater A                     A 2
paint-spattered stretch pants A A     A             A 4
cream shift dress           A             1
light blue Jockey T-shirt       A                 1
white Jockey shirt A A     A     A       A 5
brown skirt with pattern       B     A           2
beige vest A                     A 2
blue cargo     A A       A A       4
Total 4 2 2 4 2 1 2 2 2 2 2 4  

A and B distinguish different outfits on the same day.

I might need to fix the clothing logs as the pictures come in. I forgot to track some of the earlier days, so I filled them in from memory.

I wore the white T-shirt / stretch pants combination on the plane rides, hence the double-counted days.

Next time, I should bring more polyester and less cotton. I brought the cotton T-shirts because they were easy to mix and match. They were fine in the city, where we spent most of our time in airconditioned comfort. The polyester top I borrowed from W- was much more comfortable in hot weather. It dried faster after washing, too. Many of my polyester tops are more sport-like and can’t easily be matched with skirts, but I’ll keep an eye out for other tops that would be a good fit. The travel pants my dad got me should also make it easier to use my travel tops.

I should plan for clothes to dry in two days, not one. Maybe even three days, for safety.

We packed just the right number of clothes, I think. I didn’t feel like I packed too few clothes, and I didn’t end up with lots of clothes unworn.

W- totally won in terms of clothing. It turns out that scrubs are excellent for air travel: a loose fit for comfort; pockets for pens, passports, and boarding passes; and room to avoid aggravating sunburns.

Yay geek travel!

Stories from the trip: Making my peace with endings

Reflections during the flight back:

I try not to take even everyday routines for granted. There are only so many weeks and weekends in a lifetime. Extraordinary times — significant moments, all-too-short visits of family and friends — pass even more achingly.

This is part of life as an immigrant visiting home. Every second ticks toward a departure. Every departure involves a Stoic confrontation of inevitable loss. It’s not just the big losses. Even before then, you lose the everyday moments and the untold stories.

The only way through it is to hold on to the reasons for this part of the story. It’s difficult to remember this when I leave for a different horizon, but I’m getting better. Part of it is learning so much more from the varieties of love and life around me. The trick isn’t to extend the lessons I’m learning from the people around me, with so many this learning phase, just as students can’t be in school forever. The trick is to learn more deeply, apply what I learn quickly, and share what I’m learning along the way.

All things must end so that new things can begin. Moments must become memories so that we can apply the lessons we’ve learned from them.

So we’re going back to this second home we’ve created for ourselves. We’ll do our laundry, pick up the cats, restock our groceries. We’ll go to work and focus on our projects. Fall will turn into winter. (We call it baking season to dull its edge.) We’ll get on with the rest of our lives, and other people will do the same. It’ll be fun.

Looking ahead… You know, it’s okay. Time passes. That’s what time does. This is neither good nor bad. It just is.

The road ahead looks exciting too.

Jetlag-assisted early days

I like jet lag. Used well, it’s a low-effort way to reset one’s sleep schedule. I’ve been waking up at 5 AM for the past couple of days. I realized that starting work early usually means that I end up working the entire day anyway, so I’ve been using the extra hours for personal projects on my laptop. Result: lots of improvements to my personal dashboard application, lots of reading, and lots of writing. Because W- is similarly jetlagged, our mornings and evenings are synchronized. We’ll probably drift towards later evenings eventually, but we might as well make the most of it now.

I occasionally experiment with early wake-up times, and I usually write happy blog posts about it whenever I do.

I’m not sure if that’s because this idea of waking up early is bound up in social approval or whatever it is (waking up early is considered good, so perhaps I feel satisfied and a little smug when I manage it?), or because I really do like it. But I also don’t mind late nights of hacking and having fun, although I can’t stay up as late as W-. He drinks coffee and I don’t, so I have lower tolerance for reduced sleep.

Anyway. Mornings. The office opens at 7 AM, and I can’t get in unless it’s open. I used to be able to badge in through the IBM street-front, but the IBM reception has moved to an inner location, so no more badge access for me. This means that on weekdays (particularly in winter), the earliest I should leave the house is 6:30 AM. Morning routines typically take me an hour, so a good time to wake up is around 5:30 AM. I’ve liked these 5 AM wake-up times, though, because that gives me a little time for personal projects in the morning: small improvements to my dashboard, a few chapters of a book, and so on.

When I finish work and head home, I’m pretty much ready to have dinner, tidy up, and go to bed. I’m continuing to track my time use, and maybe the data will help me get a sense of my discretionary time when my sleeping patterns stabilize.

Jet lag: not a bad thing.