We bought a car last year and it was basically the dumbest thing ever. Sure, we got a car but we felt swindled. The dealer didn’t take the time to explain anything to us and we ended up getting a good but no great deal.
So far buying a house has been different. We’re barely beginning in the process but we’ve learned a few things:
There’s a thing called a “jumbo mortgage” for really big expensive houses. They cost more and have higher rates!
Most houses out there are expensive enough for a jumbo mortgage (compare standard and jumbo searches on Zillow).
First time home buyers only need 3% for a down payment. And sellers should be OK with it, no matter what you put down.
Everybody talks about the down payment but closing costs are just as much, if not more, than the down payment. This includes things like appraisals, sewage system and home inspections, and fees paid to the lender.
We already knew we should shop around, but start with your credit union or local bank. Our credit union had great rates, and fairer closing costs.
There are a few other things we’re only starting to learn. One of those things is gentrification. One thing we’re looking for in a neighborhood is bike-ability. We really don’t want to buy a second car. We use ours right now primarily for one thing: Getting to the mountains. Without it we’d be spending money renting them or on a car share program and we’d probably be spending about a car payment every month. Anyway, we don’t want, or need, a second one.
The problem is, while Denver is a great city to bike in, some neighborhoods are more bikeable than others. Many of the neighborhoods we can afford are in West Denver, the neighborhoods west of I-25, and south of Highway 6. We biked through there this weekend and they are decidedly less bikeable than where we live now, just on the other side of I-25.
Two neighborhoods we can afford are Barnum and Barnum West. Taken together, they make up a 1.32 square mile neighborhood bounded by three streets that are dangerous, and one that’s illegal, for bicycling. Getting into Barnum from the east means riding on a narrow sidewalk, waiting at a long crosswalk, and then riding a sidewalk again once across. Anything we’d access on these streets we’d have to access by car. According to Google Maps, there is one grocery store accessible without crossing one of those streets.
Though it’s possible to access nearby places like Viet Hoa, or the Westwood Food Cooperative, both require car. The final option is to bike into Central Denver, adding two miles, and a steep climb, to the journey. The next neighborhoods south, Westwood and Athmar Park, have similar problems.
Grocery stores aren’t everything but the subtext here is that these neighborhoods are also poorer and that’s part of why the houses are cheaper. Gentrification brought more grocery stores, bike lanes, access to health care, and other amenities to neighborhoods like those just on the other side of I-25. It’s also what raised rent prices and displaced people who lived in those neighborhoods.
One of the attractive parts of living in Barnum or Barnum West is the opportunity to live in a majority hispanic community. Less than a quarter of the population in Barnum and it’s western neighbor are white people. We hope to have kids and hope those kids don’t grow up surrounded only by people who look like them but we also don’t want to be part of the problem of displacing people who have lived in this neighborhood for a long time.
How do we think about our privilege in a housing market like this? Moving to Barnum feels like we’re sacrificing some of our amenities on the bet that those things will show up soon. That feels like exploiting a system of housing discrimination that has existed for decades. Moving into a neighborhood that is actively gentrifying might give us the right balance between diversity and access to the rest of the city but feels like we’re part of the problem displacing families from a desirable part of town they can’t afford. Moving to an already gentrified (read, “desirable”) neighborhood feels like giving up. It’s also not something we can really afford.
Most neighborhoods that had high poverty rates in 1970 are still poor, and chronically poor neighborhoods have lost 40 percent of their population in the intervening four decades. That is, people who can get out, do.
Part of our privilege is that we aren’t being forced anywhere, we’re choosing to buy, and we have greater than 1 neighborhoods to consider in that choice. We’re only scratching the surface now, but as we learn more and talk to people about their neighborhoods, we’ll be thinking about the social consequences of the biggest economic choice of our lives.
About 13 months ago we bought an SSL certificate for harmsboone.org. Recently we upgraded our SSL configuration for harmsboone.org and all our subdomains (except wedding.harmsboone.org, we’ll get there). Now you can browse Greg and Danielle’s blogs,and Danielle’s new writing project, 1000 Wednesdays, with confidence that nobody, not the government, not your internet service provider, not your crazy neighbor with a WiFi Pineapple is interfering with the words and photos your see on these pages.
Both of these last two sites are extra hip for being encrypted with a free certificate from Let’s Encrypt, a new non-profit, open Certificate Authority run by the Internet Research Security Group (ISRG). Their goal is to lower the barriers to entry for enabling encryption on web servers so that everybody can be serving content safely to everybody using the Internet. That means, even sites that are more or less dormant like International Underground can ensure that whoever happens upon it is getting content they can trust.
Things that were tricky about converting these sites over:
We migrated from a shared hosting environment to a virtual server on NGINX. Let’s Encrypt does not officially support NGINX yet, so we had to install them manually.
We had to solve some pretty big mixed content problems. For the most part they were ameliorated by changing the protocol in our various config files.
For International Underground, we had to patch a plugin that served a remote file over http. This may have broken the content (it’s a Flash video and I didn’t bother checking to see if it worked.
I missed the memo that Let’s Encrypt certificates don’t support the www subdomain by default and we (temporarily) lost www on International Underground and haven’t configured it for 1000 Wednesdays. I’m tempted to leave it that way, especially the latter never responded to www, but the redirect isn’t hard to set if you have the cert to cover it.
Overall, even though it took a few steps more than SSLMate, I was pretty impressed with Let’s Encrypt. For a public beta it is a great service that’s only going to get better. I hope to move all our sites to LE eventually but I’m going to get my money’s worth on the certs I paid for first.
We’ve had this site, HarmsBoone.org, for about five years, now. It started as an easy place to direct our families (the Harms’ and the Boones) for updates on our lives in Korea, then Hungary, but on August 2 we became the HarmsBoones after an incredible wedding celebration on Minnesota’s North Shore. We had a fantastic time with the friends and family who made the trip up to Castle Danger to party with us, and now we’re back in DC resuming our normal lives.
Below are some pictures we managed to take from the wedding (and a couple from our photographer). There are more to be found, for sure, but we want to quickly shout out a few people in particular who were crucial to making this weekend happen:
First, to our families for all the support they gave us before and during the wedding. We are endlessly thankful to have such wonderful parents, aunts and uncles, cousins, second and third cousins…you get the idea, couldn’t have pulled this thing off without all your support
To our many friends who came from far and wide to join us, and who reminded us of what we already knew: that we are beyond fortunate to have such a great network of friends.
A HUGE thanks to Laura and Galen, who drove all the way from Denver to transport a box of beautiful but breakables sculptures and more than one box of delicious but breakable Emperial Brewing beer. More big thanks to Galen for brewing that beer and to Laura for officiating the wedding as the best wedding captain known to humanity. The weekend would have been less ceremonial and decorative and hoppy without their skills.
Our photographer John Sharpe: seriously, not enough words for all the good things we want to say about him.
Lake Superior for being awesome.
Franky and Annie Scaglione for working incredibly hard to design and create gorgeously whimsical sculptures of the places we’ve been for us to scatter around the reception hall. Check them out below and soon at My Favourite Colour Studio. Okay, now the pictures.
Each year in August the small city of Chuncheon, about an hour by express commuter rail from Seoul, hosts a week-long festival celebrating two specific Korean dishes: makguksu and dakgalbi. Apparently this year the town decided that late June was a more suitable time for the festival this year, and thank goodness because we’re really glad we got to go.
Dakgalbi, a casserole made from chicken ribs, rice cakes, red pepper paste, cabbage, and a few other things depending on where you’re eating it, was one of the first Korean dishes we ever had and easily among our top favorites. It’s prepared on a giant skillet in the middle of the table and shared among everyone present. We had been craving it since the moment we got off the airplane.
Makguksu was new, at least we’re pretty sure we had never had it before. It reminded us of bibimguksu, except with buckwheat noodles and possibly a different kind of broth. It’s a chilled noodle soup with a radish, anchovy, or beef broth. I think we had the radish variety. Apart from the noodles, the soup was a lot of different vegetables, some kimchi, and red pepper paste.
Picking a place to eat makguksu was not hard, though it definitely could have been. The festival took place in a large field directly outside the train station that we understand was once a military camp. The food tents formed a outer wall for the festival, with banners above them alternating blue and red, for the soup and the chicken, respectively. Despite what must have been two dozen possible choices, we were so hungry we sat down at the first one we came across.
After eating we walked around the festival, but eventually the heat became too much to bear, and with a surprising lack of shade, we reluctantly headed to a cafe for iced drinks to plan the rest of our day. We wanted to see some of the amazing lakes and streams that Chuncheon is famous for but didn’t have the will to jump in a cab, so we headed to Gongjicheon, a small stream running between the lakes nestled into Chuncheon’s mountains. It always struck us as amazing how well Koreans do the outdoors. Gongjicheon, like so many other parks and wilderness areas was beautiful, with well maintained walking, running, and biking paths (this park had at least 12k of track along its rivers and lakes). We ended up having a our dakgalbi not at the festival, but at a little shop along the stream. It might have been the best dakgalbi we’ve ever had. The chicken was excellent, and the vegetable combinations were perfect. I guess that’s what happens when you get it from the source.
Steve Jobs was a great man who invented some amazing devices that have changed the way we interact with technology. Today we’ve changed our look, (inspired by boingboing.net) to a retro mac theme in his memory. I never knew Jobs, and never thought I’d get the chance, but he was an inspiring public speaker, an innovator, and a businessman not afraid to make insanely great products. His genius, his commitment to greatness, near perfection and thinking different, left a mark on global technology and industrial design that will far outlast his mortality.
A couple weeks ago Danielle and I joined a couple of my new classmates on a ride out to Mount Vernon. The beautiful trail winds its way along the Potomac from the Washington estate past Alexandria, where it is briefly interrupted, DCA , the National Cemetery, and Fort Meyers, terminating finally in Rosslyn at the Key Bridge. Almost all of it is off-street trail much like what I was used to in Minneapolis. In general it is quite a nice trail; smooth pavement, except for some boardwalks here and there, beautiful scenery (can’t get much better than the monuments), even a place where you can get so close to landing aircrafts that you can almost touch them. With all that, though, the trail lacks some surprising features I’ve seen other places.
Most prominently in Lake Park, Korea, exist speed-segregated trails. All the way around the lake were walking paths, “fast walking” or running paths, and bike or really fast running paths. Even when the paths converged, they did so only in that there was no physical barrier between the three; occasionally the walking and running paths would join forces. In a park as busy as Lake Park was, it was hard to imagine not having these trails separated out. Even during the slow periods there were dozens of people sharing the path with you, after all it was the biggest, and only real outdoor recreation area for a city of a million. Sure there were other bike paths, but they almost all pass through the park at some point, and if you are terrified of the traffic on the streets (as I should have been) Lake Park is the longest stretch of uninterrupted trail. The segregated trails exist back home, too, in Minneapolis.
Though not so rigid as the Ilsanite park, the Minneapolitan Grand Rounds Scenic Byway is almost all split into “wheeled traffic” and “biped” traffic. There are signs around the lakeshore bike trails telling walkers, “If you don’t have wheels under your feet, you’re on the wrong trail.” It’s a friendly convenience both to bikers and pedestrians. The trails are supposed to be speed limited to 10mph, but even at that speed, crashing into a walker or runner who can’t hear you shout “left side!” is going to do some damage to someone. Thus the separation allows bikers to only worry about slow pokes weaving around the bikeway in a carelessly unpredictable manner with iPods loudly obstructing their hearing, and there is almost always an opportunity to safely pass such nuisance bikers.
On the Vernon trail there is no segregation, a perfect union where all ambulation is created equal, with no special treatment or exclusion. Want to walk very slowly down the middle of the path with headphones on so you can’t hear people telling you to get out of your way? Go for it! This is America, you have that right. And so, I make my first argument in favor of segregation, but only as it applies to speed and mode of travel. It is not as though there is no space for a second two-way trail for walkers. Throughout most of the Mt. Vernon Trail there is plenty of room for separate trails, and the congestion certainly merits it. As an example of the benefits, I present my experience riding this weekend.
For some reason Saturday was the day everyone decided to wander aimlessly down the trail without really paying attention to their surroundings. I was coming up quickly behind a runner who had headphones on and shouted “left side!” from a good distance. Her reaction was to stop in her tracks and say, “where, what side!?” I’m not sure how she could be confused by “left side.” A reasonable person should assume the person saying it is behind (answering the “where”), and coming up on the left side (answering the “what side”) and then get to the right, or at least not be spooked by the biker whizzing past. To her credit, at least she heard me, dozens of others think it is perfectly acceptable to throw in the headphones and tune everything out, as the old Atmosphere line goes, “put my headphones on for this world I ignore.”
Bikers can shout “left side” at these people all we want but they won’t hear us, and sometimes will get spooked, and if they do something dangerous (like stop, or move to the left instead of the right) someone could get hurt. The point is, with segregated trails this shouldn’t happen, or is at least limited to the few points where trails merge or biped traffic meandering onto the wrong trail.
Washington and Arlington are great places to bike, but especially during busy times and around tourist attractions (which are everywhere in this town) the trails can become overly congested and therefore inconvenient and dangerous. I suspect it will be a long time before it happens, but I hope there are plans for expanding the trails around here to separate the wheeled from the non-wheeled.
Andre Francisco and I could drone on for hours lamenting a common and serious problem with fine dining establishments: the beer list. It is all too common for restaurants to have extensive wine lists, and servers knowledgable about which wines will pair well with which dishes, but have only rancid, tasteless mass market brews like Heineken, Budweiser and Miller Genuine Draft in bottles at ridiculous prices. Beer remains for many restaurants a cheaper, less sophisticated drink, when there are many beers crafted with just as much care and sophistication as a vinter puts into an expensive wine.
To illustrate, Danielle and I lunched at Ristorante Piccolo in Georgetown as part of DC’s Restaurant Week. The food was delicious, and all the beverages expensive. House Wine was $8, and while there were several pages of reds, whites, rosés and champagnes, there were eleven beers on the entire menu. Among them were two Italian lagers, Miller Lite, and a healthy offering from InBev and SABMiller, all between $6-8 for a bottle. This is absurd. It’s like selling boxed wine for $6 a glass, and Three Buck Chuck for $8; no wine drinker would tolerate that. At Piccolo they even misspell the name of their best beer, Sam Adams as “Sam Adam,” it may seem like a small detail, but it’s but one in a collection of double standards and gourmet oversights.
More than the selection of beer, the presentation at these restaurants is also upsetting. While wines at these restaurants are typically delivered in the correct glass, beers are delivered in a pint glass, the same one they serve in college bars and greasy spoons. Here again, a double standard. For wine it is important for the glass to facilitate the wine’s flavor, a glass acceptable for wine drinkers; for beer, just some glass.
That tweet from Andre above pretty much sums up this whole post. Imagine a server dumping wine from the bottle into a glass, aerating it all over the place, maybe even dribbling a little on the table cloth, and in the wrong glass to boot. They would be gone faster than you could say, “Careful, man, there’s a beverage here!” Yet beer gets treated like Coca-Cola: something people drink when they don’t like, or can’t drink wine.
A tripel should be served in a goblet. They look fancy because they are fancy. As BeerAdvocate’s Alström Bros say, the Tripel is “a pretty damn fascinating style of beer to say the least. If crafted and served correctly, it is a beverage of great awe.” They are brewed in a specific kind of monastery in Belgium called a “Trappist,” and by law only Trappists may brew it. Typically are extraordinarily alcoholic—think 10%—because they are brewed with three times (get it, triple?) the amount of malt normally used in an ale.
For all the same reasons why its important to serve wine properly it is also important to serve beer properly. The average drinker might not tell the difference between an India Pale Ale and an Extra Pale Ale, but an informed palate will be able to distinguish not just between the different types, but what makes one brewery’s IPA better than others. Every part of the brew process influences the flavor of the beer, and not just the ingredients, but also how they are used. The shape of the glass, and the temperature it is served at can sometimes greatly alter a beer’s flavor, just like wine.
This is not to say there are not places to get a good brew. There are, in many cities around the world, excellent restaurants with gourmet food and beers to match. For DC Beer Week (the same week as Restaurant Week) Andre, Danielle and I ventured out to Big Hunt in Dupont Circle and enjoyed half price bombers. We also went to Churchkey where we all shared a pint of Heavy Seas’s Siren Noire, a stout that tastes like the best hot chocolate I’ve ever had and the best bourbon I’ve yet to have, folded gently into an amazingly heavy and smooth stout. A must try for anyone jumping into the specialty beer foray.
No, this is just to say, that with the explosion of craft brewing across this country there are more and more people going to restaurants these days who know the difference between good and bad beers. Given the price difference, there may actually be more of us than people who can tell from wines, and it’s time restaurants gave the beer drinkers a decent option. Brewers know this, beer drinkers know it, it’s time the chefs started to pay attention. So, bring on the good beer.
A few weeks ago I created a wiki for the CETP program in hopes that CETP participants would share experiences and words of wisdom about their homes and schools in Hungary. So far few have taken up the cause, and I suspect it has something to do with time. Updating a wiki about the place you’ve lived for nearly a year, not to mention working with an unfamiliar interface takes a certain amount of energy. In fact, I haven’t even had time to make one about Kaposvár or my school and it was my idea! To solve this problem, I endeavored to pass along the burden of typing up all the important information about my school, town, and Hungary to my students, a task that was recently partially completed. Continue reading “Classroom 2.0: The Wiki Experiment”
A quick update for everyone out there. We at Munkácsy Mihály Gimnázium started an English language newspaper at our school last December. We published one issue in print and now it will continue, mostly, online. Check it out at http://munkacsytimes.wordpress.com. All the articles from our first issue are already available there, and new articles will be published all this week.