Saturday, September 08, 2012

War of the roses

I live around some really busybody neighbors. Most of them are seniors or otherwise unemployed, and are in obvious need of something to do. Every summer it seems a few of these neighbors get fixated on something and passively aggressively compete to do that thing, or take care of that item. For example, last summer everyone passively fought over who was going to fill the bird feeder hanging on the post of the laundry line. Seems like a silly thing to compete over, right? This became such big deal to a few people in particular and right after one woman would go over and fill the feeder, not more than 10 minutes later another woman would come over and put more feed on top of the already full feeder. This occurred a couple of times a day for over a month. As a result, seeds would spill on the ground and all around the laundry line pole were a variety of sprouted seeds. My wonderful landlord, Ron, finally had to ask these ladies to stop. One time Ron was in my kitchen fixing my sink and I made a joke about the bird feeder, he rolled his eyes and literally said "ugh."

So one consistent battle that seems to occur year after year since Ron moved out of the complex 4 years ago is the battle over who is going to take care of the roses. This includes but isn't limited to overwatering, poorly pruning, and somewhat weeding. The main busybody, Linda, likes to act as the in-charge person. She takes initiative to prune the roses near her porch and staircase, but doesn't prune the ones near other staircases. This has caused the roses to grow in a funny line--low in the middle and high on either side, like over 5 feet high (as compared to a 2 foot low). We're talking a 3 foot height discrepancy. Linda also weeds the roses only near her porch.

Linda pruning the roses in front of her apartment.

It's funny to just watch this all play out too because busybody #2, Anna, comes out and right behind Linda and will water everything excessively. Anna is a real pain in the ass because she'll squirt across the divide over to my place and hose off the side of my house, the windows (and sometimes they're open so the inside gets wet) and anything else in her path. Linda will come out while Anna's watering and passively ask her why she is watering, and Anna smiles and just keeps watering. Anna is a large, disproportionate woman and sometimes has a hard time lugging the hose around to water everything. I think she feels obligated to water everything within the hoses reach. If the hose is knotted and she has to let it run for 10 minutes while she untangles it. Inevitably the running water fills a pool somewhere in the rose garden or just runs all over the concrete, into the gutter, onto the street.

Rear view of Anna petting a cat

Anna doesn't even live near the roses so it is beyond us why she feels obligated to come over a minimum of twice a day and water. She lives around the corner and probably has her own garden she could be watering and maintaining. Our rents have been driven up year after year based on the outrageous water bill our landlord Ron receives. I have no idea why these ignoramuses can't make that connection and try to conserve. It will be raining again next month and all the dried out stuff will come back. It's inevitable, it happens year after year without fail. 

The neighbor on the other side of me, Lilly Mae, is the best neighbor I've ever had. She doesn't get too involved in Anna and Linda's drama but Linda is such a pain in the ass that every now and then she engages Lilly Mae. Linda is really passive and makes a lot of back-handed compliments and observations. I don't mind or get involved I think mostly because of the age difference (that and I have a full time job and life). I think because Lilly Mae is near her age, she's a peer and often gets sucked into Linda's passive fishing expeditions. The great thing about Lilly Mae is that she really doesn't take any shit and will tell people like it is. 
Lilly Mae telling Linda how it is.
Notice the roses in the middle are lower and the ones on right and left are taller.
Lilly Mae telling Linda that she isn't pruning the roses correctly. 
Our kitchen windows face this scene so while we're eating dinner we watch the neighborhood busybody show. It's better than TV! We are rarely involved in the other ladies' drama. There are a few other players too involved in this, they are more like background characters and like me keep the involvement minimal. I only step in when Linda or Anna start messing with my shit. Like this morning, Linda thought she'd take it upon herself to weed my garden. I had to come out and say "why are you doing that? don't do that please." Linda's series of explanations included "well the cats need somewhere to lay" you mean shit because it's fresh turned up dirt..."it looks so messy" my response is I planted a natural low maintenance landscape because I didn't want to take care of it or waste water...finally she said that Ron told her she could take care of the garden. Which is a total bullshit lie, Ron can't stand Linda. I called her on the lie and asked her again to stop. "Well I guess I'll stop" she said and walked back over to her side of the rose line.

Linda ready for a new day, and a new way to be a busybody.
Every now and then we have an inconsiderate hipster neighbor or two move in too and take over the backyard as if it was an extension of their apartment, leaving garbage, laundry and personal items scattered all over. Linda should direct her energy into regulating those folks, not messing with shit that isn't hers.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Of half started beginnings...

I've had two months of incomplete sentences, distracted thoughts, shifting priorities, overstimulating environmental experiences and unforeseen changes of plans. There's not a whole lot I can really do when things are out of my control, you can either fight the current or flow with it. I choose to flow, it takes less energy and I'll be sure to brace for whatever may come. And so far the unexpected has consisted of compound fractures, administrative nightmares, automobile break-ins, unbelievable golden opportunities, parking tickets, too many pets, and probably some other things I've forgotten. I would like to share some of these stories in the near future, especially since sometimes writing is cathartic and serves as processing function for me.

I'm enjoying this late summer evening on my extra long Labor Day weekend.

I've been thinking a lot about chemicals lately, how they've permeated every aspect of our lives--whether through ingesting (food, beverage, medication) or wearing (fabric softeners, lotions, creams, colognes, perfumes)--and the larger opinion is that it is "good" to embrace chemicals, and if you don't like chemicals in your life then you are perceived as some kind of weirdo. I feel that for the most part I have a choice about chemical use, with the exception of the city I live in trying to add fluoride into our water supply. And my opinion is that if it costs 5 million to build a plant to put the fluoride in, can't you forego adding the chemical and give that 5 million to the schools? Or to social services? Scholarships for low income people who want job training?

Chemicals aren't good, they really aren't. And people hear this creative marketing/messaging that they are good--diet coke can help make you (keep you) skinny, the weak-willed pandering to the snack food industry, the fact that these larger corporations/food manufacturers sneak high fructose corn syrup into every goddamned thing, like bread, ketchup, salad dressing, relish, sauces, and on and on. As a consumer and human who cares about himself, you really have to be vigilant about where your food and beverages (including water) are coming from. There is a great opinion piece in The New York Times that really highlights the relationship between what humans eat, how our bodies work, and how things can get complicated when we don't put good into our bodies.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Dissecting "Independence Day"

Independence Day is the national holiday of the United States, and is also the day that the United States signed the Declaration of Independence. National day I understand (sort of, read: excuse to eat, drink and party) however the second part of that definition prompts the question, “What is the Declaration of Independence?”

The Declaration of Independence is a break-up letter from the United States (13 colonies at this point) to Great Britain. The United States wanted to end their relationship because they wanted to be independent—setting up their own government, military, economic, legal system and so on—and felt like they were being held back. They wanted the freedom to figure out their own way, which has ironically evolved into the hypocritical chaos it is today. I would have to say the issue behind the Declaration of Independence really comes down to the United States (leadership representatives of the colonies anyway) felt oppressed and bullied by Great Britain, and thought they’d formally end the relationship with a letter. This is a document that has not only survived over time, but still remains this pinnacle point of reference in politics and history.

So, my interpretation of the break-up letter is this:

“Hey, you guys, when “certain” things happen, it can make the recipients feel icky. I am sure you would agree that everyone is entitled to being treated with respect, dignity, basic freedoms, you know, things that should go without saying but for the sake of our conversation let’s be clear. Oh--let me also quickly point out that people that don’t agree are evil. Okay so we’re on board with how people should be able to live their lives? Great. Here’s a long list citing specific examples about how you’ve been a shitty partner. We’ve tried to work with you but you’re just not getting it. We’ve been engaged in this tired dance for a while now and I’m really tired. I think we should just agree to disagree and cut our losses. I wish you luck in the future. Sincerely, a bunch of US over here representing a bigger bunch of people.”

Fast-forward to nowadays 200+ years later, this is one of the 11 federal holidays that occur annually. (On a completely side-note and future essay, let’s seriously examine our holidays and the origin of them.) Independence Day is celebrated by lighting fireworks, barbecuing and eating, engaging in outdoor sports or picnicking, boating, camping, festivals and much more. While I enjoy the day off I’m not too into the holiday per se. Sometimes it’s hard to enjoy local parks and venues because so many other people are there too, with the same idea of enjoying themselves. It turns into this competition for space. For example, I plan on taking a bike ride later on the Springwater Corridor but most of the city has the day off too so I expect it to be congested with traffic.

I think fireworks are major pollution and very dangerous. I like how people act surprised when they blow off a finger or appendage. When I lived in New York, I used to work at this place on a street called Ocean Ave. Ocean Ave wasn’t actually on the ocean, it was near it but in reality it was a kind of shitty street where a bunch of bored teenagers hung out. Whenever I worked on the 4th of July I was guaranteed to have fireworks shot at me on my walk up the street to the bus stop. I wasn't ever hit or anything but it's a little unnerving when a loud *POP* goes off feet away from where I was last walking. In NY the houses and yards are so close together there that it is inevitable if your neighbor fired some kind of firework off, the flaming remnant would land in your backyard. This happened one year at my cousin’s house and he took off running to go confront the guy, and I mean a full-on, fence hopping like an Olympic pro working the hurdles run! No fight broke out though, the confrontation turned out to be more along the lines of defensive conversation and masculine posturing. I can't even remember what the end result was.

I’ve written before about fireworks in some of my previous neighborhoods. It isn’t too bad where I am now; I am a lot closer to downtown and many people walk down to the waterfront to watch the big show. But I used to live in a neighborhood further out (affectionately nicknamed “Felony Flats”) and there was a tremendously ridiculous amount of fireworks set off throughout most of July.

Trixie is really afraid of the fireworks. She is turning 3 later this month and I can’t remember her ever being this afraid of fireworks. Over the last week it seems whenever a firework goes off, she emerges quickly from wherever she is in the house and books it into the basement (with the same enthusiasm of my cousin a few paragraphs up). She hides in the space between the main level floor and the drop ceiling in the laundry room for at least a ½ hour. Marcus, who is usually the big chicken, is pretty unaffected by the fireworks. I think this is because he spent the first 3 years of his life living in that neighborhood. What occurs over here are small peanuts.

Can Trixie get any cuter??
Independence Day was also a semi-interesting science fiction movie starring Will Smith. If it’s offered for free on Netflix and you haven’t seen it also have nothing better to do, I recommend watching it. 

Sunday, July 01, 2012

the college textbook racket.

Boy, what a racket college textbook sales are. I would be interested to see if anyone has done a study on this—it’s amazing how most students have no choice but to participate in the scam. And the scam is this: college textbooks are incredibly expensive, in some cases ridiculously expensive. Even the used ones are over-the-top expensive. Students have the opportunity to “sell” their textbooks back to the school, but this often has a disproportionate return. Like pennies on the dollar return. For example, if you bought a textbook for about $150, if it is in perfect condition with everything intact you will receive about $8 to $15. And that’s if they are going to use that book the following semester! It’s not uncommon for a school to decide to change books every other term or year. In some cases when I took more mainstream and general requirement classes, I had luck finding very cheap books at Powell’s or on, but as I got further along on this crazy college trip, some of the books have been a little more specific and nuanced.

Take for example my Business Finance Book:

About as dry as a mouthful of crackers. And "Fundamentals" is an overstatement. 

definitely used. 
This book is paperback and smaller than most textbooks I’ve used for school. I think it’s really abusive to charge $72.50 for the book when I’m already paying about $800 for the class. To add insult to injury, this book is a school specific edition so I can’t just Google the title and get something close that will work for class.
What a rip off!
I’m not the first one to write about this and of course there’s a good chance that you, the reader, are very familiar with the situation. Just performing a google search of “college textbook racket” yielded pages of results, including articles, sites offering low-cost solutions like renting or selling to each other, and discussion forums. I guess it's safe to say there's no shortage of resources if I'm looking to vent and save money. 

To most teachers’ credit, they make recommendations on how to save money or provide a way to access the book for free. Quite a few of my classes provided a URL where you could access the textbook online. In another class, our teacher told us to photocopy chapters 2 and 7 then return the book because that was all we needed for the term. I had a computer class where on the first day of class, the teacher lugged in a big suitcase full of books, and signed one out to each of us to use for the term (for free!). So as you can see, there is a recognition across the spectrum that textbook sales are a major financial issue for most people.

Like most people, I find that I constantly fight against this divide of being able to pay for college and trying to obtain a degree to advance professionally, earn more money and improve my quality of life. It’s nice (ha ha) that nowadays when you apply for a student loan, they give you a repayment schedule so you have an idea that borrowing 40 grand will give you $900 a month payments after you graduate or stop going—regardless of if the degree was earned. That’s a scary thought! And also motivation to not depend on student loans, which presents the challenge of self-financing or being awarded scholarships. It’s times like these I wish I could hop in the time machine and talk to younger me about how this stuff works.

Other than my complaints about the cost of textbooks and classes, I feel that I have experienced a high quality of instructor/instruction. Actually my BA 302 teacher kind of sucked and gave me a B, but other than that I’ve met some really smart professors who are passionate about what they are teaching and also have full-time real jobs—owning their own successful businesses, marketing, engineering, publishing, some very interesting people who share great real world experiences. Like my last teacher, who taught BA 311. It’s at those moments I momentarily forget the rage I feel at the beginning of each term when shopping for textbooks.

Something I’ve recently questioned is why I save my textbooks. I have a few stacks of books around the house that I don’t think I’ll ever look in again. Am I subconsciously trying to justify the amount of money spent by having the books around as tangible, material reminders of the (losing) investment?


What a losing proposition. Well, I might look at the geology and meteorology books again. But probably not the rest (if I can help it).

Friday, June 29, 2012

not at this address

I haven't talked about my junk mail lately but it's still arriving in full force, it's a mix of advertisements and solicitations that I'll never look at and mail to people who don't live at this address. In today's installment of "how much of the mail is actually ours," we have something from Minnesota Life regarding someone named Valerie's current Accidental Death and Dismemberment insurance.

Valerie hasn't lived at this address in years! I have lived on this block since 2005 and I think Valerie lived in this place before we moved to this neighborhood. That's how long she's been gone. 

I've been getting tons of mail that doesn't belong to me for years now. It's really crazy; there's been times I've collected a huge pile of it, went down to a post office, waited in life for ever and then handed it all over to a bewildered looking mail clerk, explaining that I keep getting this but these people don't live here. I can see a gleam in hesitation in these clerk's eyes but I just leave the bag or stack of mail up there and take off. I think I've done that about 4 times now and I still continue to get a barrage of mail that doesn't belong to me. It really gets me concerned about my own mis-delivered mail. I mean, how much of it is some other random person getting? and are they also, like me, collecting a pile of it and every quarter or so go down to their local post office branch and turn the stack over? or are they a-holes, and do they just throw it out, or worse yet open it and obtain more information about me. Am I being secretly stalked? 

I've complained about different aspects of mail delivery in the past. The junk mail itself is overwhelming. I've never been pre-selected for so much crock scammery in my life! 

The wrong person/address stuff is especially disconcerting. Last January I didn't receive a ticket that was supposedly mailed to me (one of those BS photo radar things, but we'll visit that in another blog) and I'm left wondering if someone else received it and threw it out. What's the quality assurance program at the USPS look like? I'd like to get some quality control in my zip code please. 

We used to have an awesome mailman named Stan. Stan the mailman was everything you expected a mailman to be. As if he just walked off of the set of Sesame Street, he was friendly, stopped to engaged in small talk but didn't talk for too long, and also paid attention to things like misaddressed mail and leaving packages out of sight instead of in plain view and easily steal-able in the time between delivery and when I get home from work. Stan left this route because he got a transfer into his own neighborhood. He was really excited about that and I can't blame him. We've had a few mailmen since Stan that are completely devoid of personality and don't make eye contact. It just hasn't been the same and whenever the current mailman crams the mail into my box so tight that I can't get it out, I am so tempted to smear dog shit under his vehicle door handle.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Oregon Badlands Wilderness

Oregon certainly is a great place to travel around! I love taking a few weekdays off from work and just cruising around the state, camping or staying in a small-town hotel and just checking out the scene there. There is such diversity throughout the state--a day trip could easily pass through lush forest mountains, high desert, arid, volcanic landscapes, grassy plains and miles of farms, beaches...this state pretty much has it all. You can travel as short or as long as you like, there are plenty of things to do that are within an hour's drive of Portland. Similarly, if you have a few days off you can really check out some neat stuff. Like the John Day Fossil Beds. I've talked about them before and really enjoy visiting the three sites. We must get out to see them a few times a year, and we try to visit during different seasons to really take in the variety of environment and vibe that occurs with the changing position of the sun in relation to the earth's axis.

Recently we went on a hike to the Oregon Badlands Wilderness and I have to say if you get the chance you should go, you will not be disappointed. The hike is relatively level so it's not anything technical or extra tiring. There are some volcanic rocks you can climb too. I think over 100 species of birds out there too! We also saw some really neat blue lizards, I don't think I got any pictures but they were definitely something I haven't seen before.

It is so peaceful and quiet out here. There were a few other people out here but families encumbered with a ton of stuff, they took the short hike out and back. We took the longer hike, but then also got disoriented and took the wrong trail back, resulting in what was supposed to be 3 miles turning into 8. 

But it was beautiful and I I didn't care. It was a little warm and at one point but I was okay, it serene calm of the landscape is really therapeutic.

When we started seeing signs we didn't recognize from on the way out we knew something was wrong. We were on a trail, so at least we knew we would end up somewhere sooner or later. 

This is Flatiron Rock. We climbed on top of this and hung out up here for a while. When we climbed off the rock, we made the mistake of coming down the back of it--that's where we picked up the wrong trail. 

View from the top.

Hot molten-ass shit going down here 40 billion years ago!

Rock Wren, hanging out with us and loving my camera's auto-focus noise. 

Spent juniper. 

More information about the Oregon Badlands Wilderness can be found here:

Also, if you liked these pictures I have a bazillion more up on my Flickr site:

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Objects in mirror are closer then they appear

As I look ahead on the road of life I see final exams in the distance, just in front of the horizon line and waiting for my approach. Looming large in the rear and side view mirrors is my midterms…one midterm back with a 94 (yes!) and I am still awaiting my grade on the other (fingers crossed). I’ve plotted out my educational trajectory and by 2015 I should be eligible for graduation, and while that date seems very sciency fictiony and far off, it will be here before we know it. I also think I am personally experiencing some kind of personal temporal distortion field, I honestly think I perceive the earth’s rotation at a faster than actual rate, or rather as I get older time seems to pass by much more quickly. The same relative moment just whizzes on by now, however I have memories of being 15 and gouging my eyes out in algebra class because I felt as if I was sitting there forever.

I can think of a few instances in my earlier life when time moved as slow as molasses in a January snowstorm. One time in particular comes to mind when I was 19—I had a factory job that was so boring each eight-hour shift seemed like its own eternity. Looking back, that factory job was definitely one of those defining moments in my life when I really took in what was going on around me. There’s something to be said for epiphanies that come from observations. Towards the end of my tenure at that factory, I took a good look around and made a promise to myself that I wouldn’t end up doing something like that later in life.

I’ve worked at a couple of factories in my life and each experience shared a common theme of being a brief and demoralizing experience. The factory job that stands out the most was in Florida; it was a plastic mold-injection manufacturer. And I worked the graveyard shift, which made it an extra weird experience. On one hand, the night shift was good for cooler temperatures. The machines generated their own special heat and also this facility was not climate controlled, it was a giant metal warehouse that baked under the hot Florida sun. So you can imagine the respite that came with darkness and quiet. On the other hand, some of the graveyard shift cons were related to just being up when the world is sleeping, feeling tired and missing your bed, or worse, closing your eyes for a second and dozing off, screwing up the manufacturing process. Looking back I’d have to say it was fairly obvious that the cons outweigh the pros, I’m not sure why I endured this experience.

The machines ran 24-7 in a continuous process of plastic pellets getting fed into a machine that boils the stuff down, adds coloring, pours into molds, speed solidifies the plastic and spits out some sort of widget. These widgets were things like plastic medicine cups, fasteners or plastic clips that go to other crappy things, gaskets, plugs, and all sorts of overlooked innate things. Working in that capacity has influenced the rest of my life with regard to noticing the kind of plastic bullshit we made there. Everywhere I look, all the goddamn time I see pieces of plastic stuff on the floor, or maybe buy and IKEA something that inevitably has the bag of plastic fasteners and parts to hang or build whatever it was that I bought. It’s really out of control and has really permeated our human existence. It’s amazing how overlooked this gigantic industry is, it’s a world not really thought about too much because it functions as a secondary or tertiary global process. Not that we need more plastic bullshit in our lives. It’s really weird if you step back for a moment and think about it. Or maybe not, what the fuck do I know? I really wish someone would figure out a way to clean up and recycle the plastic garbage gyres. That’s definitely one of those things people don’t see or really think about but if it were dumped in our community there would be a mobilization of efforts that would be over the top.

This is where your candy wrapper went.
I know I’m part of the problem—of course we all are, with our purchases and habits and employment either directly or indirectly contributing to the plastic problem. It’s so big that there would need to be some serious major planning to completely eliminate it. When I worked at that plastic factory, I was kind of indifferent about plastic and more concerned with the paycheck. I mean, the smell made me sick and I knew that couldn’t be good, but I didn’t truly understand the detrimental effects of working, breathing and eating in that environment for 8 hours a day. You should have seen the morning shift that came in, these women that had a certain look, long timers who undoubtedly eat lunch without washing their hands, ingesting plastic, breathing plastic, bringing it home, reproducing, cancer anyone? I took a look at the people who came in to wok the day shift and couldn’t imagine myself doing that kind of work for 20 years without committing suicide.

And with regard to my part in this process—

I, being one of many humans at the end of this process, had to open a hot door every 26 seconds and pull out the plastic pieces: finish them off (which basically meant removing the plastic doohickeys where the liquid channels of the mold were), inspect for quality control and throw into a box to be weighed or counted or something.  I must have moved tens of thousands of plastic bullshit parts through the process. Which isn’t even a dent in the whole picture! The environment was really toxic too; the machines that produced the widgets were very loud, even with earplugs and protection on. The chemical stench in the air was sickening and heavy; it literally felt like a slow poisoning.  The supervisors there wouldn’t let me listen to my Walkman and I felt like for my entire shift I was having my soul slowly sucked out of me. To pass the time and because it was so loud I would sing every song I knew at the top of my lungs. But this didn’t last long (thankfully); I think I might have only worked there for 2 months, maybe 2 and a half. It was just long enough to look closely at the people who came in for the next shift and know that I did not want to share that fate.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Dog Mountain

On Monday we went on an awesome hike to the top of Dog Mountain in the Columbia Gorge. I took about 50 pictures and added them to my Dog Mountain Flickr set! If you live in Northwestern Oregon or Southwest Washington, this is a great day hike. It only took about 2 hours to get to the top, some of it was very strenuous but slow and steady wins the race, and the rewards are awesome views all up and down the Columbia Gorge, views of Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Hood, and beautiful wildflowers. 

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

a Le update

It's been a while since I talked about my neighbor Le. She has had a lot happen in the past year or so that definitely warrants an update. If you want some background on Le, you can read about her birthday in 2008 and some more info and general observations about her changing health.

So the update beings last year, about a year ago to be exact. Earlier that year, Le was living around the corner from me, seemingly independent with the exception of a caregiver stopping by for a few hours a week to help with some of the housework and laundry. I am not sure who was sent to help her but it must of gotten to a point where Le's need exceeded what the caregiver was able to provide. I'm not sure how those evaluations work and it seemed that over the year her health declined considerably. The person coming by weekly wasn't enough help to sufficiently meet her needs. She was having increased memory issues and starting to do some strange things. Her apartment was in an increasingly unorganized state, and she seemed to be having periods of forgetfulness more and more. I was coming by more frequently and spending a lot of time cleaning random messes. I also noticed that she was eating very poorly--Snickers bars and Haribo Gummy Bears, ice cream, canned cling peaches, ground beef...just really random things that didn't add up to good nutrition, especially for someone with diabetes.

This situation continued to build and all came to a head on Memorial Day of 2011. I'm still not clear on what happened, but the end result was an ambulance taking her away from her apartment to never return. One of our mutual neighbors Vicki said earlier that day Le came by and was really unsteady and ashy/gray. Vicki noticed something was wrong and helped her back to her place. From there Le felt she had to call 911. Apparently she was brought to the hospital and treated, evaluated then transferred to a short term care facility. I came by and visited her a lot while they were sorting out who her case manager was, trying to get in touch with family--the only people involved were her sexist brother who also had a disability and her overbearing ill-tempered sister in-law. Over the next 6 months this continued until it finally got to a point where most of the legwork was over and Le was settling into her long-term care facility. I'll spare you all the drama of family, liquidation of assets, evaluating your life, facing mortality and managing cognitive issues. Fast-forward to today, this long term care facility is probably the best thing that could have happened to her!

Nothing to worry about here folks, there's always an ambulance parked out front of The Terrace. 
Le lives about 5 minutes from the area where her old and my current apartment is in a place called "The Terrace." It's like a large apartment building/community center for seniors with the added support of people who prepare meals, provide intense healthcare services, and provide regular programming to keep their minds active. It's a pretty nice place, nicely decorated, secure, friendly staff and really clean. She's settled in comfortably and has a clique of neighbors she eats her meals with and gossips to me about. Overall Le seems like she is still decompensating but staying at The Terrace has helped significantly slow the clock.

Le's front door.
Le's room is like a large studio apartment. She has enough space for her knickknacks, pictures and big screen TV, but also has a door wide enough to get a wheelchair or walker through. She has a large oxygen generator in her room and a tube so long she can wear it and walk all over her room. She has sturdy grab bars in the bathroom and a small kitchenette in addition to having meal service in the main dining room.

She has a lot of stuff!

Her studio's kitchenette. Note the slippers to the right!

Looking down the hall at one of the dining areas from her room.
The dining areas are funny, I think this is where it all goes down. Le tells me that I wouldn't believe some of the things the women talk about! I asked her for an example. She looked around, leaned in and hoarsely whispered to me, "The talk about oral sex!" I asked for an elaboration but she didn't have any more to add. I was curious about who was servicing who and how that all went down.

Looking down the other hall
Le's room is positioned in a good area, she is close to a nurses station, not far from the dining room and her window overlooks a nice courtyard complete with flowering trees and rosebushes.

Boy I'm really hungry for some Chinese Food
The last time I saw Le was in February, she wanted to go to Target and also wanted to get some Chinese Food. We went up to this place on Hawthorne and had the lunch special. She was in heaven!

Hot and Sour soup! Or maybe Egg Drop soup. I can't remember, they both look the same.

Le really enjoys shopping at Target and one of the things that makes her experience even better is the power chair carts she can use to get around. She buzzes all over the store in that thing! She can put her oxygen in the basket and really enjoy her visit. I think we go up and down every single aisle in that store. The only thing Le can't do is get items off of high shelves but she has me to help with that.

Crusin' around Target.

Le has a lot of her daily and food needs covered at The Terrace but she still likes to get a few special items for herself. She always has some interesting mission to fulfill--this time it was to get a new lampshade. Other times it is to exchange a throw pillow or find a matching decorative linen set.

Independent shopper! 

She's really filled her basket. 

I can't believe I last saw her in February. I'll have to contact her soon and see if she's up for some lunch.

Friday, April 27, 2012

pre-selected again!

I got another one of these things in the mail recently and before I threw it in the recycling bin I felt compelled to remove my pre-printed personal information off of the document. This is the result:

I think the place that sent this is local, I should have gone down there in person and given them the third degree. Why is it that I was pre-selected for a random $6,000? I like how it's a fake-real check up top (heh not a check but a "pre-selected certificate"), attached with instructions on how to redeem this money. Notice the terms or interest rates aren't in the bold writing.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

I love the math department student lounge

When I'm at school, I like to hang out up on the 3rd floor of Neuberger Hall in the math department student lounge. It's a quiet and tucked away place where I can study before class and get my bearings before I head into Spanish class. I really enjoy the peace and solitude of the math department and even though I'm not taking any math classes, I look upon the formulas on the white and black boards in this lounge with fond remembrance. Math is so much more concrete and definitive then many of the other things in life, it's not as ambiguous as social services or business, the psychology of marketing or diversity of cultures. Math is a common element as current as it is ancient, no matter who you are, what culture or religion you identify with, math is a language that crosses all languages, times and planes. I miss math and after I get this business stuff out of the way I think I'm going to look into adding more math into my life. 

(...and the 20-year old version of me is totally scoffing at this!)

The math department student lounge is a large room that has a skylight in the ceiling, several circular tables around the room and a few large plants. A lot of natural light comes in which is nice; even on the rainy days it's nice to be in natural light. There are doors into classrooms that host the math classes and offices all around the perimeter of the room. At the west end of the room there are vending machines that contain some good items like Odwalla Bars in addition to the junk food.

So, here I sat, preparing to go into my class when I was inspired to take this picture. This is my view. It's a really great space!

Friday, March 30, 2012


Grades were posted. Overall I am pleased. I would have preferred an A in Spanish (especially since I was at an 89.7 GPA prior to my oral exam) but I'll gladly take the B+.

Monday, March 26, 2012

the space between here and eternity feels like infinity

Finals are over and I am officially on Spring Break. Not that I have any plans other than to relax a little and breathe between terms. I took today and tomorrow off but it's more of a staycation type of thing: a little sleeping in, spring cleaning, hang out with my non-working friends, and generally getting things ready for next term which begins next Monday, April 2nd. I was hoping my final grades were posted today however when I checked they were not.

I took my Spanish final last Monday and on Saturday I turned in my massive Safeway report. I didn't expect the Business class grade yet but was hoping at least my Spanish final grade was posted. Before my Spanish final my class average was an 89.7. If I scored at least a 92 on the final I will have an average of 90.6 which gives me an A- for the term.

With regard to the Business class, I know my teacher has to read like 100 massive reports so I can't imagine he read and graded all of those yesterday. The grade I earn on this report is the majority of my final grade for the class so I have no idea how I'm doing. Sometimes I think the report was well done and I for sure got an A. Other times though I completely doubt myself and wonder what kind of neatly formatted gibberish I tuned in. Well at least the formatting is nice so hopefully I get points for presentation.

On a vaguely related note, remember "Puttin' On The Hits"?

While we're at it, you might as well watch this too:

No, you can't get those 3 minutes back. Hope you enjoyed it!

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Havin' ourselves another bissextile type of year!

Last leap day (in 2008) I wrote about my observations and a bunch of other semi-connected thoughts related to space and other current event type of things. I noticed that I read a lot more news 4 years ago than I do now and I was a lot more obsessed with space, space accidents, and stupid space decisions. Space is kind of scary, I have to say I've watched a bunch of science fiction movies and shows between now and the last leap year and I've become just a little more nervous about the whole space thing. Having seen every episode of every season of every kind of Star Trek (except DS9 because it is boring and it sucks) there are so many unknowns in space. Phase variances, space-time continuum disparities, black holes, energy vortexes, alien races, faulty ship mechanics, environmental control malfunctions, hull breaches, warp breaches, food shortages, biological reactions, fuel cell depletion, sun flares, meteor storms, nutrino particle wave disturbances, enemy fire, radioactive gaseous nebulas, the list goes on and on. Space is such a wild card, it really is. If I had to pick between being one of those undersea explorers or a space explorer I really have no idea which way I'd go.

If you are looking for a good space science fiction thriller to watch, I highly recommend Pandorum. I am not going to give away any spoilers other to say that it is awesome because Dennis Quaid is in it and it is a great thriller movie. Another good sci-fi movie? Sunshine. Freaking amazing. If it's a particularly rainy weekend here's a third pick: Moon.

Well I was pre-approved for some bullshit credit line over at Fingerhut it seems. I got this lovely gem in the mail today:

We looked through this magazine and it is filled with so much future landfill crap. You wouldn't believe it, it's worse than Skymall! And I know people like my neighbor Le love looking through these catalogues, inevitably buying a few things, entering into the payment plans--yes this camera can be yours by making 54 payments of $16.99 a month! Effing Fingerhut. They are totally on par with phone book scam, it's this strange cycle of aggressive wasteful marketing paired with cheap and overpriced imported plastic junk.

Well happy leap day! Not a whole lot of excitement going on in the news. Davy Jones died today, a bunch of baby births, weddings and proposals occurred, some guy paraglided off of a building or something, a tornado in Tennessee, just a typical kind of late February/early March kind of day.

I saw the Monkees in 1987, I was living in New Jersey and they were playing at Great Adventure Six Flags. I was really annoyed because I thought the Monkees were stupid and would rather spend the time riding the roller-coasters instead of watching my mother embarrass herself yelling at Davy Jones like some sort of loon. I think at one point she lit her lighter and held it above her head. She was really into the Monkees and at the time I totally wanted to implode. I think Peter Tork was the best though because he was some kind of stoner hippie. Mickey was all right because he could play the drums and sing, and that always seemed like a tough thing to do. And Mike Nesmith's mother invented Liquid Paper. It seems Davy died of a heart attack, and he was a fit vegetarian. Go figure!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Why do I keep getting phone book deliveries?!?

I don't have a landline, and like the majority of the world I haven't had a landline in about 5 years. I only use a cell phone and I am not sure why but it seems like on a monthly basis I receive a phone book delivery. I have tried to trace the source of the book but so far it's been a huge waste of time with no positive result. How did I get on a distribution list for this?? Is it a "well you live in the neighborhood so you get one" kind of thing or am I on a client list and delivery schedule, and somewhere in Kalamazoo, MI an executive is beaming with pride because he thinks by continually updating my phone book situation he's doing me a huge favor?
Opened the door to let the cat out and was greeted a phone book!
Phone books are not only obsolete and incomplete but they seem like an incredible waste of paper and resources. I can't help but think about the waste all along the life cycle of this product--trees harvested, turned into pulp, turned into special phone book paper, contents organized and updated, graphics created, book is printed, then the books are sorted, stacked, wrapped in additional layers of plastic because it rains a lot in Oregon and most of us will step over it for a week, have the book shipped to the delivery points, hand delivered but driven to the neighborhoods where it will be distributed, recycling and garbage pick up, transport to landfill, everyone paid to participate in this process, the administrative and accounting staff required to support and pay the people who are responsible for making or delivering the book (indirect costs), storage fees, rental fees, workers comp costs, workplace injury issues (because I can't believe this all is running without at least one accident) and on and on.

All this occurs and I just grab this book and walk it right into the recycle bin. I suspect many of my neighbors are doing this too, or at least those who are into the phone books still have to recycle the old one. And plastic bags? I get they are trying to do us a favor but it just seems like a more thoughtful marketing strategy to have customers who want the product. What a colossal, wasteful process and at the end I am one of many annoyed people. And these deliveries are totally stealthy, as if the people delivering them know they are part of a gigantic scam. When I opened my door this morning and saw the plastic pile at the door, I so wanted to see who had just delivered it so I could chuck that effing book at his head.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

sick and the perils of google image search.

I'm sick. My eyeballs are burning and my head is foggy, inside my chest is itchy, I'm coughing, experiencing hot and cold flashes, and I keep forgetting what I start doing. A lot of walking into a room and then saying to myself, "What did I come in here for??" I have body aches so bad the only explanation is that I sleep walked down a flight of stairs last night, and somehow got up and back into bed. I woke up every three hours or so in such incredible discomfort, and the in-between time was filled with bugs-bunny-esque nightmare paint dream sequences.
I have a boat-load of homework due tonight and a ton of stuff going on in general...I want to get back to it as soon as possible so I'm going to aggressively treat this wicked bad cold. I went to the store earlier and picked up a few things to help me get better, and I am about to bombard my body with a blast of immune boosting stuff: garlic, honey, ginger, echinacea supplements, vitamin C, ibuprofen, and anything else I can think of. I will take a power nap and then see if there's a little relief improved mental clarity. I am really glad Ric is working a half shift today because when he returns home he can help me out.

On a completely unrelated note, when I was searching for the Bugs Bunny nightmare paint picture this totally unrelated picture came up in my image search:
hey bebe...let me help you out of your pants completely random. How does that happen? I could find no apparent commonality between "nightmare paint" and "Tom Selleck." I guess it could be worse. I think the most random I ever encountered was when I was searching for "Chinese calligraphy" and the ballon fetish website popped up as one of the first ten results.

I am observing that another unintentional side effect (ha maybe intentional) is that now I'm looking at the source of this oddly matched photo for clues as to why it came up as a result. The blog where this picture was located internet boredom lurker what are other people's lives like stuff. I don't want to look at it but somehow I can't look away. It's called "Pluck You Too" (ha...clever...) and if you arrived at my quasi-narcissistic meanderings because you were bored, you'll fill even more of the void by looking at that blog next.

I think someone important from Google is coming to speak to my business class in a couple of weeks so I will be sure to ask about this.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Hawthorne Safeway update and please stop "Pre-Selecting" me for stuff

The gigantic monstrosity up the street (otherwise known as Safeway) is well on its way to re-opening to the public soon. The previous building was set back on the property and a mere 33.000 square feet. This new "Lifestyle" format store will be 55,00 square feet, up against the sidewalk, and is a part of a larger marketing plan aimed at rebranding Safeway as the "Lifestyle" store. 

 The pictures below were taken a couple of weeks ago. 

SE 27th to the right, SE Hawthorne on the left.

Looking east on SE Hawthorne at SE 27th.
This entity is huge! It encompasses the whole block. It seems as if it's being put together with shoddy materials and sub-par workmanship, sprayed polystyrene and tattered sheets of plastic flapping in the wind all winter long. Whenever I look at the progress I find corners or seams that don't quite meet, spots where they didn't get the paint quite in or bricks set a little off. Another annoying outcome of this project is the amount of heavy equipment and personnel in and out of this area for the past year. It has been too much for this quiet Hawthorne neighborhood.

There was one day a few months ago when I was really sick and stayed home from work. All I wanted to do was sleep off the nausea but that proved to be impossible--some gigantic doomsday machine was generating a bassy, thudding, soul crushing noise. The magnitude of the impact from the pounding was enough to rattle the pictures and other decor on my walls.
Tattered plastic blowing in the breeze...
I am kind of curious to see what the inside looks like because I can't believe they'd have high ceilings and add height in favor of wasted space. This "new and improved" Safeway is easily the largest building in this immediate area--the next largest probably being the Fred Meyers further down (at SE 39th and Hawthorne). I don't think this neighborhood has seen a population growth that could support and additional 20,000 square feet of grocery and retail items. For that matter, I can't imagine the previous Safeway store design had enough sales to support it.

What's with the little windows placed in the big window space? 
Many neighbors have concerns about how a store this size will affect the neighborhood--increased traffic, safety/visibility issues, area livability and more. My neighbor Rosemary often gardens out front and noted that when she looks up the street the new Safeway "is blotting out the sun."

Just for perspective, here is a "before" picture:

This photo came from the Oregonian article "Southeast Portland: More on the Hawthorne Safeway closure."

I took this picture last summer and applied a color extraction filter. The area to the right is currently filled in by the Safeway construction effort. The tree and shrubs have been long gone

I know it's a little premature to make a judgement but I feel like I'm not going to like the new Safeway. I don't like how they seem presumptuous; I think the store design is ugly and while they think their produce and bakery items are higher quality and attractive to shoppers, to me it just means that they are average. If I want high quality, I go to New Seasons or a farmers market. Usually I plan on eating with the seasons and what's relatively local for us, I don't need my grapes shipped up from Chile thanks. I try to keep it on this side of the equator. 

On a completely different note, I've been getting weird solicitation junk mail a few times a week where the claim is that I've "been pre-selected" for whatever supposedly awesome thing they have going on. Just last Thursday I got a Dish network something-or-other in the mail that pre-selected me for something extra awesome in comparison to what they normally offer and/or do. Now, if Dish really did some intuitive marketing and researched their potential audience, they would know that I don't have any cable and don't own a TV. 

I also get the "pre-selected" for loans from local payday loan places. Like I would ever get a loan from these crooks! The outrageous amount of interest they charge is absolutely predatory. They mail this shit out and it looks like a real live check made out to the effect of $5,000-- or something. What if some tweaker intercepts mail like that?!Is this something they can take and commit identity theft with? I don't know how to get off of these lists. I would have to say I receive three "pre-selected" solicitations a week. I would try to opt out of whatever marketing machine is responsible, however my fear is that there is such an involved process to remove yourself from "the list" that you inadvertently put yourself on their radar in doing so.