Finding a new home it’s hard, still.

In this post, I’d like to share my own experience and most significant pain while searching and filtering properties while trying to find a new home for my family.

Remember when you had to go to an office and see a person to help you find an apartment? Remember when you had to search through the newspaper to find homes available for rent or sale in a neighborhood? I am old enough to remember that.

You couldn’t just contact and apply to several properties from your computer, and you definitely couldn’t tour these properties from your couch either.

Today searching and looking at properties is easier, but it’s still not easy enough. Companies behind popular real estate apps or websites focus on allowing for easy listing and applying for properties. In the end, they do want to increase their inventory and get the commissions! It’s a business.

Today I want to talk about the filtering and searching functionality of such apps.

Searching and filtering are not ideal, it’s not smart, and because of this, it is time-consuming to find the right property.

For example, you can search for properties within a price range, specify the number of bedrooms, bathrooms, and location. But what is lacking is the ability to filter by more specific items, for example, properties with gas ranges, or wired for networking, or without any carpets, etc.

You can find and further filter your property search by manually looking at photos, but I hope that these real estate listing companies use technology to improve the search and filtering features. The same type of search could be automated using a few computer vision tasks, image classification, and object detection.

Computer vision is a technology that helps computers “see” specific things within an image. This technology can automate the repetitive human task of looking at the listing’s photos to determine if the rooms have carpet or wooden floors or look at kitchen pictures to determine if the stove is electric or gas.

Using computer vision, real estate sites could categorize these properties and add better and more detailed filters to their search features.

I am writing this from our new condo, it has a gas range, and it took my wife and me many hours to find it. One of the main things we were looking at in our home search was homes with gas ranges, and none of the sites we used to search could separate properties based on this or any other item that was visible from the home listing’s images.

Still, it wasn’t part of the typical filters like price, location, size, etc.

Technology can help us make our lives easier. But sometimes I wonder, are we using technology or is technology using us?

The logbook – part 2

Back in January, I decided to start writing on a logbook. The idea was to make it easier for me to write down things I thought were important about my day. Think of it as a minimalist version of a diary or journal.

The fact is, I haven’t been keeping up with it as I wanted. The first two months, I did it every day, it worked. But then I left my logbook in my backpack, and I didn’t write on it for over a month!

Why haven’t I been keeping up with it? Well, it is a new thing, and I didn’t spend enough time on it to help it become a habit. I know this because I’ve read The Power of Habit book by Charles Duhigg but haven’t applied what I’ve learned about it. At least not yet.

Another one of my habits that has stopped being one is reading at least one book every month. I’ve been doing this for a while, but this habit stopped being one since the middle of last year. I need to get back on it. I enjoy reading books and everything that comes with it.

I stopped reading at least one book every month because I replaced this good habit with another one, streaming content and social media. That’s right, with everything that was happening last year, COVID-19, the elections, police brutality, etc., I found it easier to watch the news, social media, and streaming content than to read books. What a waste of my time.

I did not come to this realization on my own. I knew I was spending more time than ever on social media and streaming content. Still, I didn’t do anything about it until I read this post by Om, where he mentions a video by Max Joseph showing us beautiful bookstores and, more importantly, an easy-to-follow method to read more books.

Reading books is something I enjoy, but with so much content available these days, it’s hard not to get distracted by it. I am going back to my reading habit, I’ll start by reading for 30 minutes to an hour each day, and the logbook, well, I’ve been writing on it every day again for about a week now. It feels good.

A flat tire and an e-bike

Evening bike rides were a common thing for me before my twenties, I remember having a grey mountain bike, and even while it didn’t cost me much, I was very proud of it. I worked many weeks until I had enough money to buy it.

A friend of mine and I rode our bikes in the city for hours; we’d go on Avenida Patria, a busy avenue in the city of Guadalajara, Mexico, but it was somewhat safe due to its wide shoulder. One of our common routes went through a hilly neighborhood. It was challenging but also my favorite part of our route.

My bike wasn’t anything special, but I had invested in a portable air pump, a flat tire repair kit, and even a water bottle holder. I was serious about my bicycle and my rides. I remember thinking about anything I could ever need during one of my bike rides, so I prepared for it.

More than two decades have passed now, and for most of those years, I haven’t ridden many bicycles. I owned one but seldom used it. Last year my wife got me an electric bike, it was a great gift, and since it is electric, it’s effortless to ride the hilly streets around Seattle, the place where we live now.

The electric bike is fast, and it is a lot of fun to ride. It also came with two saddlebags that allow me to transport some of my camera equipment when I go on some photography adventures.

Everything about this bike is good. When the weather permits and I am not feeling lazy, I go for bike rides around Seattle and the many trails around the area. It’s beautiful, but I feel lazy more often than I’d like to admit.

Yesterday, I was riding my bike on the South Ship Canal Trail towards Discovery park, then suddenly, the bike started to feel heavier, and within seconds I knew something was wrong. My e-bike, with all of its technological advancements, had stepped right into a large nail. That’s right, several years later, and many advances in technology had done nothing about the fact that bikes, electric or not, can still get flat tires.

What do you do if your bike has a flat tire? My seventeen-year-old self will not only know how to patch it, but he will also have and carry all of the necessary equipment to do it. Electric bikes aren’t that easy to deal with when they get a flat tire, at least not for me. I wasn’t carrying any tools or equipment to deal with a flat tire. My seventeen-year-old self would be disappointed.

That’s the story, and I learned that having a more technologically advanced bike than the one I had over two decades ago and many years of life experience didn’t make it any easier for me to deal with this. It is all the more challenging now.

There is something better than before, calling for help and looking for a bike shop is way easier now than ever; having a mini-computer in my pocket at all times beats having a flat tire repair kit and not know what to do with it.

Yay for technology!

How do you remember things?

I like to walk around the city 2 or 3 times a week and walk between 5 to 8 miles. I do it for exercise but also as an excuse to get out of the house. Often, these walks are paired with a good podcast or audiobook, but recently I started to try something new.

Last week during one of these walks, the podcast I was listening to ended, and I didn’t have anything else in my queue. I decided to just keep walking without listening to anything, and then something remarkable happened.

Out of nowhere, I started remembering things from when I was a child. It was me eating one of those unhealthy extra-sugary cereals and being very happy about it, holding one of my toys in one hand and a small spoon in the other. It looks me by surprise. I thought, why am I remembering this? Then I purposely started to dig into my memories more and more.

I was able to go as far back as kindergarten when I was at a table with two other kids playing with play dough. It was me with a happy face, opening a brand box of play dough with multiple colorful tubes of this fantastic product.

After several minutes of reliving memories from different stages of my life, I stopped and started thinking about how or what I can do to control my memories. For example, what if I tried hard and remembered all of the times I did something for the first time? The first time I drove a car by myself, my first kiss, my first day at school, my first job, first fight, first roller coaster, the first book, etc. I think you get the point.

What if I started to remember and write down all of these things? I don’t know about you, but this sounds very interesting to me, and I am currently in the process of doing it.

There you have it, that was something remarkable, and it resulted from not having something to listen to while walking. There is an excellent lesson to be learned there, and I am not going to attempt to know what that is, but something is inevitable; I will walk without listening to anything but my own thoughts, memories, and the sounds around me more often now.

What about you? What do you do to focus and remember specific things that might not come to mind often?

A note on boredom, anonymity, and declinism

It’s interesting to see how the amount of ennui in our society increases simultaneously as technology advances. We are doing something wrong. Technology and its rapid advancement can be not only distracting but dangerous. 

Is this contributing to the declinism of our society? I think it is, and my only advice is to be more empathetic and caring of others around you. 

The abundance of digital content, the accessibility of technology, the algorithms strictly designed to keep you connected and in rage, and the facility to consume more goods from our homes, digital and non-digital, it’s all part of it. 

We are becoming isolated creatures who are often policing others to see how they are behaving and ready to complain publicly if other people disagree with us.

Attacking and criticizing others is easier than ever; digital anonymity is at the root cause of this. Interestingly, those who identify themselves and dare to share their opinions publicly suffer from attacks of people who dislike what they say, destroying any opportunity of dialog and intelligent conversation.

It is boredom, online anonymity, misinformation, and many other things contributing to a civic and ethical decline. 

I’ve found myself lured into digital anger holes just by doom-scrolling on Twitter and other platforms. Even when I think I’m self-aware, it’s hard to push back and ignore the ignorant and the misinformation of pointless negativity, some of which comes from people who are just virtue signaling.

Slowing down is the best thing we can do, in my opinion. Before you reply to a critic, before responding to someone’s comment, take a minute and figure out if responding or commenting to something undeniably negative or ignorant is necessary. I think it is not.

Fighting misinformation, cynicism, and hate speech are necessary, but we can’t do it with more misinformation and cynicism of our own. We often fall under tribalism behavior, and it requires a large amount of patience and self-awareness to combat that. 

We don’t need to stop innovating to advance our technologies. However, we need to be wise and empathetic to those who are negatively affected by it. Hence, we should be aware of what’s happening and be willing to make changes, even when not in our favor, to ensure the technology and progress that comes with it benefit everyone equally.

At a personal level, I find it beneficial to be more present and empathetic to those around us, our family, our friends, the cashier at the store, the homeless around the corner, the people with who we disagree, etc. 

Just follow the Golden Rule:

One should never do something to others that one would regard as an injury to one’s own self

Mahābhārata 13.114.8