Like a Legacy Codebase

It seems to me, that owning a house is sort of like living inside a legacy codebase.

Maybe it's not so true for a new house, but for a house where you're the second owner, it's like inheriting an old codebase. You look around, start to piece together how the whole thing works.

Initially, you just see the high level components. You figure out the basics, how to turn the lights off and on again. As you look closer, you start to catch the idiosyncrasies of the original owner. Then you start to see the bugs-- the things that don't work properly. You see the odd extensions that aren't being used; designs for plans that never came to fruition. There will be scary bits that you pray don’t explode in your face, because you’ve no idea whats going on inside them.

You fix some of the bugs yourself. Others you reach out to professionals to handle.

As you get a handle on the whole thing, you start planning refactoring and maintenance changes. You'll tear out that weird subsystem that you're never going to use. Rename this and that to make them understandable to you, comment as you figure things out.

Slowly you refactor the codebase to suit your needs, and to help it fit your taste.

Still, as you keep looking it over, you'll continue to find oddities. You'll find mysteries; design pieces whose reasoning has been lost to the mists of time. Such is the nature of old code.


Andrea and I have been the second owner for each of the houses we've bought, and neither of them have been too terribly old. I can only imagine what it must be like for people who buy a house that is a century old, having been through half a dozen owners over that time. The layers and layers of people's dream and mistakes.

As it is in our new house, we've got the basics down. We're working through a couple of bugs here and there. We're building a list of future maintenance items, and planning renovations. We've called in professionals for sure; so far none of them have run away screaming "call an exorcist instead!"... so that's nice. There's design pieces I don't understand... and probably never will. Wires that go nowhere that seem to do nothing and serve no purpose.

We've started some refactoring (the big project codenamed PAINT-INTERIOR finished up a week or two ago). Lots more projects planned. Maintenance fund is setup, and maintenance projects are on the mind.

So far so good though.

Another Move, another Cliff

It’s funny to me that I wrote this post two years and one month ago. At the time, we were just about to close on our first home purchase, and were three weeks away from moving from Toronto to Ottawa.

Here I am again, two years later, just about to move from Ottawa to Edmonton. I don’t think I would have predicted that two years ago.

A lot has changed in the last two years. First and foremost, we welcomed our daughter into the world in December. She’s been an amazing child, and has warmed my life in ways I literally could not have imagined before her. Second, I started working remotely full time.

The combination really made us start to question our life in Ottawa. We love parts of Ottawa: Our house, our friends, the canal — it’s a lovely city. However, with a baby you really do start to think a lot more about family connection. With work no longer acting as an anchor to Ottawa, the question of moving really started to bubble up at the beginning of this year.

In May, we made a trip to Edmonton, and stayed in an AirBnB for a week with my parents. By the end of that week had decided: It’s worth it to move back to Edmonton. Last time when we moved from Toronto to Ottawa, we moved very quickly — from the day we decided to move, to the day we took possession of the new house was only about three months.

This move has been similarly paced. After deciding to move mid-May, we had our house on the market about two weeks after we got home. We then had a house-hunting week in Edmonton in mid-June.

We’re fortunate in a sense, moving from Ottawa to Edmonton: the housing markets are largely opposites. Where Ottawa is seeing strong price growth, Edmonton has seen prices falling. Despite having this arbitrage opportunity, the house hunting trip was irksome. One of the first houses we saw, we liked. However, by waiting until the next morning, we missed it. Crazily, despite having been on the market for over a month, it sold after two offers came in the day we saw it. After that, we had a couple of rough unsuccessful days. We didn’t see much we liked, and we learned a lot about our what we are willing to compromise on, and what we weren’t (turns out, I’m way more sensitive to road noise than I thought). On the last possible day of house hunting, at least for that trip, we found something we both really liked. It was a clear winner, despite some hemming and hawing on our part.

Irksomely, we ended up having competition on our offer for that house. Fortunately, we put in the winning offer.

Our own house sold on its eighth day on the market, while we were in the middle of the house hunt. That was nice.

So here we are again. Sitting on the cliff of change. We’re slowly putting the final pieces together on our move. We’ve held our goodbye party, and are just waiting to see how Edmonton treats us.

I hope it goes swimmingly.

Better than Bad News on Climate: Volume III

Just one link this time. I don’t have a great selection right now, and this one is too good too sit on any longer: “How to decarbonize America — and the world” by Ramez Naam.

Two parts of this piece stand out for me. The first is that it talks about agriculture, where much talk about decarbonization focuses only on electricity and transport. The second is his discussion of electricity grids; This is something I think we should be talking more about in Canada. I don’t know if anyone has noticed, but Canada’s Really Big. To me this hints that there is access to renewable energy across the country, but a nation wide high voltage electrical grid would allow us to move the generation to where it’s least environmentally impactful, and best deployed (What do the wind patterns look like in the middle of Hudson’s Bay? I legitimately don’t know, but I wonder if it would make an excellent home for deep water wind farms), and then transmit that energy to Canada’s urban centres (and perhaps export!)

Some Better-than-Bad News on Climate Change: Volume II

Another batch of Better-than-Bad News on Climate Change. In this batch I’m writing a little more commentary.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Alberta these days. It’s a place I have a lot of fondness for, and could imagine living there again. However, it is a place whose future concerns me. In 2016 the Alberta government said that 42% of the economy was driven by the energy sector. While I understand it’s an enormous chunk of the economy, as an outsider for five years or so, I personally can’t see the energy economy continuing to drive the province the same way for the next 30 years… but I also don’t understand what the province’s plan is to handle that possibility. In an alternate reality, there would be money put away to help with this, but there’s not much.

That long ramble is a prelude to the next item.

  • Germany has negotiated a plan to end its use of coal power plants by 2038. This is a fascinating example of how a consensus plan appears to be possible to do with enough political will. This plan appears to work hard to ensure those people in the coal sector affected by the divestment from coal generation will be helped, and tries to allow as light a touch as possible from the German government about how the actual shutdowns will proceed.

    I would love to see similar kinds of discussions happening in our provinces, but it seems like we’re going through a political backwash right now.

  • In a federal system like Canada, it’s important that different provinces can pursue different plans. This is why I really liked the federal government’s system of “You have to make a system, or we will make one for you”. It gives provinces the choice to deal with climate change how they’d like, so long as they deal with it. I hope the Supreme Court ultimately rules in favour of the federal government.

    In the USA, despite presidential (can you use that adjective?) cries to bring back coal, there’s lots of interesting news happening at the state level.

  • This last one, "The Case for ‘conditional optimism’ on Climate Change” is… only barely optimistic. However, in it, I find the adoption-of-technology curves graph to bring me hope on a personal level. Change can very quickly in the world these days, even when it doesn’t feel like it.