Living in Renton, Washington; an affordable alternative to Seattle. My Experience 3 years later.

I’m writing this post because, like many of us who moved to the Puget Sound region, I came here for work with the expectation of living in an apartment for a few years before buying my own place. Again, like many of you, I found that it really wasn’t realistic to find a place in Seattle with the salary I was making.

I didn’t find much on what it was actually like to live in Renton back when I was buying for the first time; so I’m giving my insight now.

The Search

In 2017 I started the search for a home in Seattle and Bellevue, quickly my search area expanded outward until I finally started to find places that fit my budget, and weren’t off the market within a few hours of being listed.

After a few weeks I narrowed it down to a place in Lynwood/Alderwood Manor and Renton. I had narrowed it down to these cities because they were about equidistant from both Seattle and the Eastside. I wanted potential commutes to be roughly the same if either myself or my girlfriend moved jobs from one side of the lake to the other.

The Purchase

I ended up making an offer on a place in Renton over Lynwood. Something about the neighborhood I selected reminded me of where I grew up in the Los Angeles area and it had more of a “city” feeling than Lynwood.

Shortly after making the offer I started the regret the decision after spending some more time exploring the area. I grew up in a poor area with its fair share of gang violence, and the Rainier Ave area of Renton seemed sketchier than any area I remember in LA.

Spent the next month until closing questioning the decision, and continued to question it for months after moving in. The first couple of weeks of commuting to Redmond from Renton were brutal, and frequently took 1.5 to 2 hours to get home.

Settling In

After a few weeks I figured out the traffic patterns and side-streets. Normal commute to work takes 30-40 minutes, and if I leave work after 6:30 I can get home in about 30-40 minutes as well. I’ve found enough alternate routes to get home in about a hour during peak hours. Overall I’m content with the amount of traffic now. I’ve commuted into Seattle a few times and travel times are about the same, if not a bit better than the commute to the east side. Many people in my neighborhood work at Amazon and walk to the transit center in Renton, I haven’t heard them complain about the commute so I assume they’re fine with it as well.

Boon Boona Coffee

Downtown Renton has improved quite a bit over the past two years and I love walking downtown on the weekends and grabbing some food and heading to Four Generals Brewing or 8 Bit Arcade Bar. When I get up early enough or when I’m working from home I always try to stop in at Boon Boona Coffee.

Renton is about 30 minutes closer than Seattle to the Cascades and Rainier area, so if you like the outdoors that is a plus.

The lakeside area of Renton is growing a lot, The Landing has a good enough selection of food. There is a huge office park, hotel, and apartment complex being built on the water named Southport which is supposedly has potential tenants like Facebook lined up. There is also a ferry service planned between the new complex and Seattle.

Also on the lake is my now favorite Lake Washington park: Gene Coulon Memorial Beach Park. The park is very well maintained and has a great lakeside trail that I love running on during the winter when the park is completely dead and I have it to myself. During the summer we spend a lot of time kayaking out of this park.

Cedar River cuts through Renton and UNDER the Renton Library, which is neat. I enjoy biking along the river, especially in the fall when all the leaves are changing and fog hangs on the trail in the morning.

Seattle isn’t too far, about 10 mins to Georgetown, and 20 minutes to Downtown on the weekend when there’s no traffic. A bus ride into downtown followed by an UBER ride home after dinner and drinks isn’t too expensive.

The Bad

Crime, drugs, and homelessness is an issue, and “good” areas of Renton area only a block or two from the “bad” areas. I know the area well now, but there are streets I feel perfectly fine walking down at night parallel to ones I don’t feel safe walking down. Get to know a local or join a local Facebook group before looking for a place to live in Renton.

The airport and related industry can be extremely noisy. During peak 737 manufacturing there are quite a few large jets taking off during the day, and the rumbles can be heard miles around the airport. Trains also bring 737 fuselages randomly through downtown, when this is happening most of traffic grinds to a halt for 5-10 minutes, the train also blares it’s horns. It’s loud enough that I can’t take work calls while this is happening, and there’s been several times they’ve done this in the middle of the night at 2-3am. The city tweets in advance of these late night deliveries but it is still annoying. If I lived directly downtown I imagine I’d have to wear earplugs to make it through the night without having a heart attack on the nights of these deliveries.

Final thoughts

Since first moving to Renton, I’ve actually purchased a larger home and moved within the same neighborhood. So you could say I’ve enjoyed Renton enough to chose to stay after looking for another home.

People do heavily and somewhat rightly judge Renton. I get quite a bit of jabbing from coworkers for living in Renton, but the people I’ve met here are great and the negative impression people have are keeping prices affordable for the time being.

Would love to see other “Living in XXX” for the less “desirable” places that are still relatively affordable around Seattle.

Attention: If you produce anything of value, screw you.

If you’ve lived within your means, planned accordingly, and produced things of value for society, the current American system doesn’t care about you.

If you built crappy cars, and paid unions too much. Bailout!

If you issued stupid debt, and partook in extremely risky financial practices. Bailout!

If you built planes which nosedive into the ground. Bailout!

If your small or medium sized business produced so little value, or was so poorly managed it can’t even survive a month with diminished revenue, even after years of above average economic activity. Bailout!

If your local state and city government, wasted years of above average tax income. Bailout!

If you were laid off recently, no worries, you’ll make more producing no value! Bailout!

However…

If you’re a grocery store worker risking your health everyday for barely above minimum wage. Screw you.

If you managed your company properly, and can handle this economic downturn without government assistance. Screw you.

If you’re a doctor or nurse, working without proper gear, and risking yours and your families health to save lives. Screw you.

Let the failures fail. Stop the bailouts.

The Coronavirus Has Shown Us Once Again That the United States Is Still the Frontier

Whether or not that is a good thing is open to debate.

Nearly 4 months after the initial outbreak in Wuhan, China, after nearly a billion people were quarantined under authoritarian rule, the leader of the free world stated that he “didn’t know people died from the flu”, even though it had killed his grandfather.

Multiple times a week, reporters face the President and Vice President and question their competency in handling this growing crisis. Meanwhile in China; whistleblowers, doctors, vloggers, and many on social media are being silenced and even arrested for speaking about the outbreak.

China’s draconian measures are working.

China is reporting fewer and fewer new cases and has even shuttered the 16 temporary hospitals it built to face the crisis.

It is very likely our cases will surpass those in China, even though we have a faction of the population. Our nation’s experts warn we are passing the point of containment, yet the administration is more concerned with containing the economic damage than the virus itself.

This government will not save you, and it never has.

How can we expect to be saved by a government which cannot save itself? Even the most protected and powerful member of the U.S. Government is not safe. The Precedency is perhaps the most dangerous job in the world, with a fatality rate of nearly 1 in 5, and half of those who died in office being assassinated.

We have the most advanced (and expensive) healthcare system on the planet, yet are bound to handle this worse than a country that spends 1/20th the amount we do per capita.

It’s the reason we are the sole cultural super-power on the planet. This powder keg of pain and riches produces capital, art, and unique individuals like none other.

A country of tortured artists.

We’re a country in search of riches, and individual freedom, at the expense of our well-being. Does this not sound like The Frontier?

We will not come out of this unscathed, but we will be reborn. On the other side opportunity and growth await, as it is our manifest destiny.

This perennial rebirth, this fluidity of American life, this expansion westward with its new opportunities, its continuous touch with the simplicity of primitive society, furnish the forces dominating American character. – Frederick Jackson Turner

Promoting moonlighting could benefit your company, and cost you developers.

Hypothetically, lets say I worked at a major cloud provider, we’ll call this company Omozon.

Omozon offers many cloud services. My team in Omozon is responsible for analyzing customer usage data, in order to do that we rely heavily on Omozon’s big data database called MegaDB, and a telemetry platform called ServiceInsights.

MegaDB and ServiceInsights are used by thousands of customers, including dozens of Fortune 500 companies. In spite of this, there is no native integration between MegaDB and ServiceInsights. Our team needs MegaDB telemetry in our ServiceInsights so we can leverage the existing alerting and DRI capabilities we built on ServiceInsights.

After talking with the PMs on MegaDB and ServiceInsights we find that any native integration between the products is at least a year out. Our team can’t wait that long, so one of our developers spends a sprint building a small generic pipeline for pulling our MegaDB telemetry and storing it in ServiceInsights. Thus solving our integration issue.

While building this pipeline the developer found that many of those external customers using MegaDB and ServiceInsights have the same exact issue their team faced. After bringing it up to the team, we decide to speak with management about open sourcing the pipeline.

Unfortunately this goes nowhere, our organization is not involved in the development of MegaDB or ServiceInsights so there is little incentive for management to put further resources into this. What’s worse is the developer on our team cannot take this code and release it on their own given it was developed on company time and is therefore Omozon’s IP.

The end results is a lose-lose-lose situation. The developer is demoralized seeing the potential of their code being squandered, Omozon loses out on potential good will and increased revenue (that pipeline between MegaDB and ServiceTelemetry relies on several other Omozon services), and the customers lose out on a better product experience.

This could have been avoided if Omozon had invested more in open sourcing valuable pieces of its internal codebase.

However, this could have also been avoided by the developer writing this pipeline on their own time.

While not the ideal path, the main developer of this pipeline could have written this generic pipeline on their own computer after work. Once the project was complete they could have published it to their github, then when back in the office, cloned the now open source solution and leverage it on their team within Omozon. 

Now, the customer has access to it, Omozon benefits from the better customer experience and their reliance on additional services, and the developer has full ownership of this valuable open source project, building their reputation as an expert in this field.

In the second situation the developer invested in themselves, and because of their newfound reputation with those in the field, it’s likely they can and will leave for greener pastures. Costing Omozon a valuable developer, a loss which could have been avoided.

You’ve probably bought counterfeit products off Amazon.

Amazon is almost always cheaper than other big box stores; but for the most part, those stores now price match.

Amazon’s shipping is almost always faster than other retailers; but COVID-19 has changed that.

Amazon’s customer service is great; but their employees don’t get the same treatment.

For the most part the Prime reasons for shopping at Amazon have been muted by the COVID-19 pandemic. To make matters worse, there is a good chance that some of the products you’ve purchased from Amazon are counterfeit.

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My first exposure to Amazon’s counterfeit problem came while I was working at a major Hollywood studio several years ago.

At the time I was tasked with purchasing identical collector’s edition box sets of Indiana Jones from every seller listed on Amazon. This wasn’t just a box set of DVDs, this collectors set included a hat and various small pieces of memorabilia. I didn’t suspect there would be very many, if any, counterfeits given the complexity in counterfeiting multiple items for a single product.

Weeks later I came into the office and began going through roughly $15,000 worth of Indiana Jones box sets.

I inspected the boxes, the DVDs, the hats, the printed items, the plastic wrap, the quality of plastic used for the DVD cases (to my surprise, the counterfeit items almost always had more durable DVD cases). I looked at everything.

A good portion of the items I checked were counterfeit, and the experience has left me suspicious of anything I’ve bought off Amazon.

Counterfeiters have grown more sophisticated, and there are few products which cannot be faked.

Have you tried buying a memory card off Amazon recently? Have you wondered why there is such a discrepancy in the reviews? If you run into products where it sounds like the reviews were for completely different products, the most likely reason is that they really are reviewing different products. Some of those reviews are for genuine items, others for cheap counterfeits.

Instead of spending hours verifying if the MicroSD card you bought of Amazon is real (like these people), go to Best Buy or Target and price match, or spend an extra $5 and save yourself the time and effort.

I know what you’re going to say:

But I only buy items marked as Shipped and Sold by Amazon, I don’t buy from third party sellers…

Doesn’t matter, you’re not safe. As mentioned in this Forbes article, products from various sources are frequently stored together and mixed with products from other sellers, including Amazon’s items. So your Shipped and Sold by Amazon purchase could be from any of the various sellers storing items in Amazon’s fulfillment centers.

Use this opportunity, while the Amazon value proposition is crumbling, to break your Amazon addiction. Or at least give it a break until Amazon gets more serious about counterfeits.

How to Find Awesome Free Camping Spots in National Forests

Since moving to Washington from Los Angeles I’ve tried to take advantage of the amazing geography.

I’ve spent a good amount of time driving around the Northwest and exploring forest roads both in person and using Google Maps.

I’ve posted videos of my trips over the past year and have had people reach out asking for the various locations they were filmed at. Instead of listing where I’ve been, I’d rather show you how to find your own. Check out this video to learn how I go about finding my spots. Enjoy.

Having fun with philosophy and zombies.

I like to talk about the various philosophies of Software Engineering. Today I want to do a little exercise in the philosophy of consciousness.

You are most likely the only conscious person right now, or there are multiple consciousnesses experiencing your life.

This is a play on the philosophical zombie argument, but bear with me.

Need to make a couple assumptions for this to work:

  • The future and past exist in spacetime and cannot be changed. What is going to happen cannot be changed (Hard Determinism)
  • At the very least you exist and are conscious
  • Your consciousness only experiences a tiny sliver of reality at any given moment, this sliver is almost infinitely narrow.

Here’s my argument:

  1. You are either the only person conscious or there exists many consciousnesses.
  2. If you are not the only consciousness than you are only experiencing your life at a very specific point in 4D spacetime. Your consciousness is like a record needle on the record of spacetime, only experiencing the exact note under your needle at that moment.
  3. Your consciousness experiences time passing at a different rate than other consciousnesses. When you sleep your needle skips ahead, when moving at different speeds (say close to the speed of light) your consciousness experiences spacetime at varying speeds, there are a multitude of things that can affect the rate your consciousness travels through spacetime.
  4. Given you only experience a moment in time; just a sliver or frame, the chances of two consciousnesses; both traveling through spacetime at different speeds, passing through the same moment in spacetime is infinitesimal or virtually impossible. Like multiple needles moving across a record at different speeds, it’s impossible for them to both stay in sync.
  5. The only way to combat the infinitesimal odds of experiencing reality with another consciousness for there to be an infinite number of consciousnesses, meaning there must be other consciousnesses experiencing your point of view or life.
  6. Conclusion, you must either be the only consciousness at this moment, or there are an infinite number of consciousnesses and more than one experiencing your life or point of view.

FYI: TURN OFF YOUR AZURE WEBJOB DASHBOARD

Last year I ran into a solution composed primarily of WebJobs processing queue items. The daily bill for the WebJobs plus the associated storage account averaged out to about $800 a day.

These services processed several million queue messages a day.

We attempted to use the WebJobs dashboard for debugging but given the quantity of requests the UI was mostly unusable. In order to cut down storage costs we turned off the WebJob dashboard by removing the AzureWebJobsDashboard connection string.

This change cut the cost down to a little over $400 a day. Almost $150k year saved by turning off an unusable feature.

As far as I know this is only relevant to legacy WebJobs before version 3. The official documentation has also been updated to note WebJobs dashboard shouldn’t be used in high throughput production scenarios.

Might be old news to most WebJobs users, but I’m sure there are quite a few production deployments out there with this still enabled. If you’re one of them hurry up and disable it. Turn it on when you need to do debugging, If you need persistent logging look into an Application Insights implementation.

A personal AirBnB host story: a fast growing start-up and nightmares that come along with it.

This isn’t exactly development related, but I’ve spoken about my own startup experiences on this blog.

The holy grail of tech business models requires massive scalability with limited lability.

When comparing AirBnB with another fast growing startup like WeWork, they look similar on the surface, but one is failing while the other continues to grow. One of the primary reasons for this is AirBnB managed to offload almost all of its liabilities to individual property owners; meanwhile WeWork is stuck with nearly 50 billion in lease liabilities.

So, back to the story. Back in September I purchased my neighbors house and moved into it. I’m considering selling my old home next Spring, but until then AirBnB looked like the best option for covering the mortgage.

My listing: link

We hosted our first guest mid October and it has been a wonderful experience. AirBnB had been mostly easy to get a hold of and deal with, and the guests have been respectful and clean. Overall its been a positive experience; up to our most recent guest.

Bad Guest (BG) timeline

Going forward I’ll refer to the “Bad Guest” as BG.

October 30th – BG books home for a single night and single guest. BG’s profile also notes that she lives in Seattle, which is about 15 minutes from the rental property. This might sound strange, but about half of our guests have been from the local area. BG messages us and asks for our phone number, we respond that we can be reached through the app, and that if they need anything we live next door so they can stop by.

BG does not respond and we do not hear from them again.

November 16th (Check in day) – We message BG with the login code and welcome them to the home. No response from BG.

The rest of the events take place on the date of check-in so I will be using timestamps from here forward.

2:00PM – We leave for a movie and dinner.

8:00PM – We return to the neighborhood to find the street filled with cars. Our driveway is blocked and I am unable to park.

8:05PM – I notice the rental’s windows are full of Balloons. I decided to stop by and check if the car belongs to the guest. I knock and the guest opens the door. The home is full of people and I notice all the furniture is moved. Looks to be about 20 or more people from what I can see. I notify them they are in violation of the rules and that they need to move their car. BG says they will move the car, and says they will wrap the party up.

8:10PM – I park my car and go inside my home. From what I can see the guests looked to be having a quiet and respectful party, even if it was against the rules. Since they said they are ending the party I decide that I will just charge them the extra guest rate and an additional cleaning fee.

8:30PM – I call AirBnB to notify them that the guest is in violation of house/AirBnB rules. They drop my call. I call back 3 more times, each time AirBnB drops my call when “transferring” my call.

8:40PM – I finally get through to a case manager, tell them the situation and they ask if I would like to cancel the reservation. I told them they informed me the party is being wrapped up so I just would like to get an additional cleaning and guest fee. They give me instructions for doing that through the app. I slowly see families with children trickle out of the house. It looks like the party is wrapping up.

9:00PM-9:30PM – More guests arrive, many carrying six packs and bottles of alcohol. Mostly younger people in their 20s. People spill out onto the deck, people can be seen drinking and smoking.

9:30PM – I message the guest and tell them to stop the party immediately. No response. I call AirBnB and get assigned a case manager who is extremely rude from the start of the conversation. I tell them I want the reservation canceled and the guest to notified they need to leave the property. AirBnB case manager notifies me I will not get the reservation or cleaning fee money, I ask if the guest is going to be refunded, the case manager says no they will not be refunded.

Confused I ask the case manager why AirBnB would keep the money for themselves due to someone breaking policy. Case manager tells me nobody is getting the money and it is just “gone.” I decide to deal with this later, and ask them to just have the reservation canceled. Case manager tells me they will contact the guest and get back to me.

10:30PM – More people arrive; no word from AirBnB. I call AirBnB and get a new case manager who tells me they are recovering from a cold, they sound very sick, but are extremely helpful. She informs me that they are unable to find the original case manager, and are unsure if she has left. The new case manager takes over my case and contacts the guest. Guest hangs up on case manager and sends calls from AirBnB to voicemail. New case manager informs me that the previous case manager was misinformed and I will still receive payout and the cleaning fee.

10:40PM – I head next door and start knocking on the door. I hear yelling inside but its in a language I do not understand. I continue knocking and they refuse to open the door or speak to me.

10:45PM – I call the police.

11:00PM – Police arrive. I speak to them and they ask if the person has a reservation, I tell them they did but it was canceled due to violation of house rules, and AirBnB policy. They tell me I need to give them their money back. I tell them that I don’t have the money and it’s held by AirBnB.

Police still haven’t spoken with the guest or approached the house. I inform them that the house is licensed, I have a local business license, and by local city and fire code it is illegal for me to even allow parties in a short term rental or have this many people on the premises. They ask me to return to my home and they’ll speak with the guest.

After speaking with the guest they come back and tell me they can’t ask them to leave because this is a “civil matter.” The police also tell me that “99% of the people there are extremely intoxicated and we really don’t want them on the road, we prefer if they stay through the night.”

So, the police inform me they won’t ask people who are now trespassing on my property to leave, and shame me for wanting them to leave.

12:00AM – I hear banging outside and see the guests are throwing trash into my compost bins and look to be leaving. I watch as they carry limp bodies out of the house, they lay one girl on the porch and allow her to throw up on the floor before loading her into a car.

12:15AM – While loading people into a car they put it in neutral and it begins to roll down the hill, almost crushing two people between it and another car. After lots of screaming and people scrambling around the car they get it into park, blocking my driveway again.

12:30AM – Guests are blocking the entire street with cars as they figure out who is able to drive. They begin leaving; they attempt to abandon the car in front of my driveway. I tell them to move the car and someone jumps inside of it and parks it two houses down (it’s still there currently.)

12:40AM – Guests are gone and I head over the access the house. The porch is covered in vomit. Dining room and kitchen floors are covered in some sticky substance. Paintings and artwork is removed from the walls and stored in one of the bedrooms. Small stains on chairs and couch. Random pieces of trash are scattered around.

Dirty, but overall no major damage.

Going Forward

Will be restricting single night single person bookings from locals unless they have previous reviews.

I plan on getting in contact with the local PD to discuss short term rentals and how to handle situations like this. This is relatively new to the area and laws regarding short term rentals just went into effect this year.

As far as AirBnB goes, I believe this just comes with the territory. I would advise anyone looking to host on AirBnB to not attempt it with remote properties that they do not have the ability to monitor closely. Do not expect AirBnB to handle guest issues for you, you’re on your own. Same for local authorities. Until this matures more there is going to be a lot of confusion for everyone involved when an incident comes up. With massive scalability comes a lot of growing pains.

Setting up basic cost alerts in Azure

Following up on the last post about simple cost analysis in Azure, this post will cover setting up basic cost alerts in Azure.

In our case I want to set up alerts on the resource group containing this WordPress blog.

First, go into the resource group. Then click Budgets in the left side menu.

Once on the Budgets page click add.

My budget will be $75 per calendar month, and I’ll have it expire 2 years from now. Once you set the budget details click next. Here you will be able to set alerts for your budget.

In my case I want to know when I get close to my budget, and when I exceed it. So I will be creating two alerts, one at 75% and one at 100% of my budget. I won’t be specifying action groups, that is a more advanced subject I’ll try to cover another time. I will only be using the email alert option.

Once that is all filled out, click create. You’ll be redirected to the budgets page where the budget you just created should now be showing.

Congrats! You now have budget alerts set up.