Arranging a Home

Moving is very exciting; new city, new house, and, most importantly, new furniture! We moved from the other side of the country a few months ago and decided that none of our furniture was quite worth bringing along, so now we have a relatively large space to fill on a small budget. We had to prioritize where we would furnish first; we chose our small bedroom, a large kitchen, and a large living room. As a creative type with some interior design experience I want to have all kinds of fun with it, unfortunately there is the limited budget to consider. Luckily with decent cheap furniture out there (thank you Ikea), and with second-hand resources, like Craigslist we have been able to find some decent pieces that work. With a larger budget it would be great to have fun with different finishes, colors and textures, but I found that on a limited budget it made more sense to stick with dark wood and black finishes.

One of the hardest parts is a mattress. There are many different vendors and lots of different styles, and all of them are priced differently; some are expensive, some are extravagant, and some are at an extreme that it’s hard to fathom. The important thing is to try a bunch and look for sales. Lots of places give discounts to students and some even to recent grads. Personally, I value my sleep and my back and have no desire to sleep on a 3 inch piece of foam or a 20 year old frame with springs digging into my back.  Also, don’t try to move it in yourself unless you (and whoever is helping you) are very strong and can balance a large wobbly slab while carrying it up stairs. The delivery price is worth it.

We still have a lot of space to fill, but now we get to move on to the details, like curtains and area rugs to add some personality to the space. One example of a little personality is the bookshelf I designed a long time ago for my brother’s room in our old house. Luckily we hung on to the shelves (which were expertly constructed by a family member) and we were able to install one in our living room. To see the shelves check out my portfolio on my website: j-conway.com

 

Cambridge = Berkeley?

As someone who has lived in Berkeley and has now chosen to move to Cambridge one topic naturally keeps coming up: Cambridge is like the East Coast version of Berkeley (or vice versa, depending on where you are from).

I would like to keep track of ways that this is true, and not true, so here’s the start of my observations:

*NOTE: These are generalizations and really based only on my personal experience – I may be wrong and I may be leaving individuals out, I know, but take it for what it is.

Similarities

  • Both are college towns and are very academically-oriented cities thanks to the world-class institutions that occupy them;
  • Both seem to have liberal populations;
  • People in both cities love farmers markets, drive Prii (apparently that’s the proper pluralization of Prius), ride bikes (while ignoring traffic rules), eat organic, own iPhones, etc…;
  • Both are separated by a body of water from a larger city;
  • The larger city that they are close to is not that large (compared to New York and other truly big cities);
  • Both regions that the two cities occupy are home to a lot of start-ups and tech companies.

Differences

  • Not to state the obvious, but Berkeley has only one very large and well-known institution whereas Cambridge has two slightly smaller, but equally (okay maybe more) famous institutions;
  • I’m pretty sure that the Boston area also just has more universities and colleges in general;
  • The big famous school in Berkeley – University of California, Berkeley – is a public institution, which comes with a whole set of differences in population, problems, ideas, and attitudes as compared to the private universities in Cambridge – Harvard and MIT;
  • Generally people dress more formally and conservatively in Cambridge and Boston than in Berkeley and San Francisco;
  • There are more homeless people on the streets in Berkeley than in Cambridge (I know, I know, Central Square… but trust me there are more in Berkeley);
  • Boston is closer to Cambridge than San Francisco is to Berkeley;
  • Cambridge and Boston have more historic buildings, and older buildings, than Berkeley and San Francisco.

Do these things mean anything? Since I have only been here a short time I admit I am looking at the surface aspects more than at the deep down differences between the two. I will keep thinking about it and add to this list when I have had more time to get to know Cambridge and this area.

I found this article interesting as a more scientific way to understand the psyche of people living in each location: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/19/east-west-culture-clash-boston-san-francisco_n_1896282.html

Beautiful Massachusetts

I don't know what that weird shiny metal thing is either.I spent some time exploring the areas around Boston this weekend and it was fun, picturesque, and just the perfect dose of real autumn (the leaves are just starting to change) that I craved when I was in California. All my friends have heard me quote the Augustana song “Boston” to explain why I would move back to the East Coast: “I think I’ll go to Boston… I’ll get out of California, I’m tired of the weather… I think I need a sunrise, I’m tired of the sunset; I hear it’s nice in summer, some snow would be nice…” Fortunately my life is not really like a somewhat “emo” song, but really, some snow would be awesome! But it’s not just that, I also love the old buildings, the history, the traditional culture, even the annoyingly uneven (and hole-filled) brick sidewalks. And today I am surrounded by many of the most brilliant minds in the world on MIT’s campus. From here I can see the beauty of the urban environment that has taken over this antique city. I will not say that every building is an architectural masterpiece, but the skyline seems comfortable, nobody is trying to be the tallest building, the old brick ones still show through.

I can definitely see myself spending a long time here – given the right opportunity I would even settle down here.

Moving Across the Country

I haven’t quite finished the process yet; my boxes are still sitting in limbo at my mom’s house and I am drifting around between family and friends. Not until next week will I haul those boxes up to Boston, begin the long process of unpacking, and somehow procure furniture. But while it’s still somewhat fresh in my mind, I want to make some notes about moving such a long distance, which at the very least might help me in the future. It’s not like moving a few hours away, or to a neighboring city. There are thousands of miles between you and your future home. Thank goodness for technology! Here are some aspects of moving across the country and my thoughts:

1. How you and your stuff are getting there: Getting yourself from one coast to the other is easy, but getting your stuff to come with you is another story. In our case we chose to fly and ship all of our stuff. I would have preferred to drive the car, but we decided not to bring the car, and we still would have had to ship a lot of boxes. Given our situation I think it worked out fine. We didn’t own much furniture and none of it was valuable so we got rid of it (more on that later) and I took it as an opportunity to purge my closet and donate lots of clothes. Somehow I still had tons of stuff that amounted to 8 large boxes, just for me! (Not to mention the suitcases I was taking on the plane with me) But this is NOT a cheap option. Flying is expensive of course, two checked bags cost me a total of $60 on United, and then FedEx-ing those boxes cost at least $500. Of course every mode has its costs – from my research I found that using a “pod” type solution or other moving company option would cost at least $2,000, plus your plane ticket or gas costs (but at least you get to keep your furniture)!

2. Getting rid of furniture: I think we made the right choice considering the quality and longevity of our belongings – we got rid of everything that was too big or expensive to box, even the beautiful TV. Part of the reason was that we were not planning on getting a place for at least a month, so where would all that stuff go? It’s hard to give things up, and it’s even harder to get them out the door. We sold most of the furniture on Craigslist. It was grueling process that took over two weeks. One thing to note: mattresses are very hard to sell. But now that the selling part is over it will soon be time to start the buying. This may be fun, or frustrating while we live without furniture until we find stuff, but it will definitely be expensive. It’s hard to sell a mattress because people like us don’t want to buy a used mattress. For some reason this seems far too risky. Or gross. Or something. Other than that it might be back to Craigslist again or maybe some generous friends ad family will have items to donate! I have to say though, it would have been kind of nice to arrive at the apartment, open up a moving van, and have all our stuff there, with only a few new pieces needed.

3. Finding an apartment. I guess most people must visit their new city before moving and somehow find a place that suits their needs during a short trip. I was scared after my experiences looking for housing in San Francisco and therefore grateful to have time to stay at home and make multiple trips to the Boston area to find a place. In the end though it only took one trip. I spent a whole day seeing apartments, found nothing that seemed quite right, and then the next morning before leaving I saw one last place, and that was that! I’m not living there yet so it’s definitely too soon to tell, but I think the apartment will be great. Now since it worked out, here’s my advice: don’t skip seeing a place just because there is a broker, and possibly a fee. It seems like some cities have lots of brokers in the rental market and some owners chose to sell on their own. But if the city is Boston you might severely limit your choices by avoiding brokers. Brokers can also be helpful because they can give you a good idea of what different neighborhoods are like, who lives there, whether the price is fair. At the very least you will see more places and have a better ground to judge other apartments. I ended up in a place that was listed by the owner so I do not have to pay a fee, and I can’t say I was relishing the idea of giving up another month’s rent right up front, but if the place had been right it might have been worth it. Also keep in mind that in some cases the property owner pays the fee or half of the fee so you can keep an eye out for those listings.

Final note: I have used Craigslist for everything during this move. I sold furniture, found a place to live, and will soon be scouring the listings for furniture. It’s a great tool in most cities.

Moving to Boston

So far my posts (seen under “Old Posts”) have all been about building my website (j-conway.com) and learning about HTML, etc. All of those were written from San Francisco, a place where knowledge of technology is so important to many people and it’s hard to get away from talking about the latest start-up or big move by Google. But now I am returning to the East Coast (I grew up in New Jersey) and starting an adventure in Boston. While the area has its fair share of start-ups and tech junkies I have so far felt a shift in focus of the people around me that is less about technology and more about, well, everything else in life! While I’m sure the fact that Boston is the ultimate college town where you can’t go 2 feet without seeing another student and there might be more talk of dorm rooms and college credits than I might like (or the woes of being a TA and poor salaries from my grad student friends), I also expect there to be a higher level of intellectualism and a broader grasp on culture. Not to say that San Franciscans are dumb or uncultured, far from it. I knew many incredibly intelligent people there with all kinds of tastes and backgrounds. I just mean to say that in the San Francisco/Bay Area I often felt bombarded by much of the same – it was always startups, hipster culture and music, and food. While I value and appreciate all of these things (I mean at least hipsters provide some entertainment and maybe make you think a little) I felt like I was being sucked into a bubble and I was losing touch with the world. In practice I don’t really think that happened, but it was enough of a feeling to push me towards the decision of leaving.

All that said, I still love San Francisco (and Berkeley) and could certainly see myself going back one day, preferably after the current tech boom runs out and things like the cost of rent return to the realm of the normal person. On the other hand I am very excited to be moving to Boston, a place I have only visited a few times and know very little about. But people keep telling me how it’s so great! you’ll have so much fun! Don’t raise my expectations too much, people!

OLD POSTS

Past blog posts from my website:

Entry 5 – June 10, 2012

Finally working on my site again. Recently I added my portfolio images in the easiest way I knew how, but now I’m working on making it a slideshow and hopefully less huge so it will load faster. Until then I at least have the images there and a link to my Flash page for better viewing.

I also made some changes (hopefully improvements) to my home page. I’ve been experimenting with making textures and patterns using Illustrator and Photoshop so I decided to make one for my background. It was also a way for me to improve my use of CSS styles and take advantage of the ability to move things around and get creative. I’m not yet to the point where I would consider myself fluent, but I’m defnitely getting the hang of it, and having more fun!

Entry 4 – March 31, 2012

Progress is slow. I made an attempt at a Flash portfolio and have finally realized my folly. I thought that Flash would make more sense to me because I have used other Adobe products, like Photoshop and Illustrator, for a long time. Unfortunately it didn’t quite work out that way. I get the basics about timelines, action scripts, buttons and movie clips. But getting them to actuallly work all together is such a hastle and sofar in my experience much more frustrating than html. To be fair that might be because the things I have done in html are less complicated, but I’d rather start with basics and be able to work up, understanding what’s happening each step of the way.

Flash and HTML are basically competing platforms and I know there are many reasons to go with each. Now that I know a little bit more about web design I am pretty convinced that HTML/CSS is the way to go and for my basic purposes and will also allow me more flexibility.

So now I am figuring out how to get my portfolio online using HTML, stay tuned!

Entry 3 – February 13, 2012

There are a few reasons I am making my website. First, I’m bored! Well, that’s not the best way to put it, really I like having goals to keep me busy. I actually have a lot of things on my to do list, but this is a fun thing (especially compared to organizing my apartment). Secondly, making a website will allow me to proudly display all my other projects. I am working on an architecture project, improving my portfolio, and expanding my technological prowess. And of course that’s a final and important reason, I feel that unless I know about computers and technology I will fall behind my generation and will never bee able to compete (in many realms). This is only a feeling, of course, and probably has something to do with the fact that (a) I live in a city run by tech guys, (b) I know a lot of engineers and CS people, and am related to some, and (c) I am always finding a need for this type of knowledge at work.

I think so far I am keeping pace and will endeavor to become much better at all of this html and css stuff. Maybe even flash at some point…

Making a website using html is both liberating and restrictive. Of course you can do all kinds of cool tricks with a website-building service and if you have any experience with those types of programs (I find it similar to Illustrator) without much time. But you are working within the parameters of the software. With html (and CSS) there is a MUCH steeper learning curve and when you are a beginner, like me, even attempting what I was able to do using wix.com’s tools is extremely daunting. However, I know that when I want to make my portfolio slideshow (uh yeah, I have no idea how that’s going to happen) I will be able to tweak it in every possible way as I wish. Unfortunately, until I make some serious progress in my knowledge and inderstanding of web design I’m stuck with simple tricks. But I’m still having fun tweaking it!

Entry 2 – February 12, 2012

So I’m lazy. Now that I know ALL the basics of HTML (see previous entry) and a little bit about CSS I decided I should skip a few steps and download a template and make it my own. I found something simple and through the use of Dreamweaver, an amazing program I didn’t realize I had, I was able to improve the site!

Entry 1 – February 5, 2012

I am learning to make a website and am very fortunate to have the assistance of my wonderful boyfriend who happens to be a computer genius. Unfortunately he has never made a website so we are kind of figuring this out together. From across the country. Thank you video chat!

First lesson: what is html???? Apparently it’s just a file type that can be created in text editing programs, in my TextEdit on my Mac, and then loaded to a hosting server. I found that there are many useful websites for learning html, like this one: http://www.w3schools.com/

Second lesson: pretty colors! After typing some basic things I was more worried about making it pretty than content so I started playing around with colors and fonts. There are several different color systems and none of them have the colors I want.

Third lesson: pictures. This is where my boyfriend comes in handy. I had created a website using wix.com (http://www.wix.com/conwayje/portfolio) which basically lets you drag and drop and make things pretty no problem. So naturally I want my new website to look even better! Well that might take several more weeks of learning so for now I am using it as an example. I wanted to have a picture on my home page so first I needed to insert the proper notation into my html file and then figure out where the file should goon my hosting server. Apparently you just put with the html files. So now I have to figure out how to resize it and put it next to the text rather than below. I have been told that this will require something besides html – something called CSS

Fourth lesson: what is CSS?????? Well it’s the same as html, except it’s not. Actually it’s something that you use in html files that allows you to put things where you want them and make them look how you want. I think… So now I’m off to learn THAT because it’s the only way my website will ever be pretty. And that’s what matters.