Category Archives: miscellany

Somebody’s child

As I get ready to turn twenty-five this week, I am reminded once again of how my friends and myself, as we pass this turning point in our lives, as we move into our thirties, into mid-life and beyond, more and more of our parents, our aunts and uncles, our friends, and others around us are starting to get sick, to pass away. It’s not exactly surprising, but it’s unfortunate that a more frequent piece of news over the past few years is that somebody’s mother is sick or somebody’s father just passed away. That an aunt has just been diagnosed with breast cancer or an uncle suddenly had a stroke.

I’m no stranger to sickness, to disease. Throughout my life, I’ve seen close relatives struggle with cancer, diabetes, and general ill health, and certainly, I’m aware of my own mortality as I face the truth of genetics and heredity and must always be on guard for signs of diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and breast cancer. So, it’s not really my own mortality that frightens me when I hear news of my friend’s stepfather passing away or another friend’s stepmother being diagnosed with lukemia or, today, my aunt passing away. It’s more the realization that the people that have been such a fixture in our lives may suddenly not be here anymore. Suddenly, it’s the realization that while we are young and energetic, afraid of nothing and living with the idea that it’s too early to get married, it’s too early to have kids, it’s too early to be tied down, that our parents and other older figures in our life, many of them are entering the winter of their lives and may not be around to see us do all the things we think we are too young to do yet. And while we may not always like them or enjoy their company or welcome their involvement in our lives, we suddenly realize that their heretofore constant presence may not be present someday anymore.

When we begin to see our contemporaries pass away, we are struck by the reality of our own mortality, but when we begin to see our elders pass away, we are struck with the reality of our own adulthood, of responsibility. That even if we don’t always like the role our elders play in our lives, they are a part of our lives, our history, and that when they are suddenly, or not so suddenly, taken away from us, we wonder if we said all the things we had to say, heard all the things we needed to hear, took care of all the things we needed to take care of. We come to the realization that we do not have an infinite amount of time to say all those things, hear all those things, and take care of all those things. We do not have forever to make peace with adversarial parents or give back to them in some meaningful way while they are still alive to appreciate it, for us to see them appreciate it, rather than when it is too late. And we are reminded that someday, perhaps sooner than we might like, we will be somebody’s parent or aunt or uncle and that we will not be somebody’s child forever.

Digital Dental

I had an emergency root canal today (when is a root canal not an emergency?). I had been experiencing pain for about a week now and at first, I figured it was just my usual stress-related jaw clenching and teeth grinding. But despite my fervent attempts to relax my jaw, relax my jaw, relax my jaw, the pain still didn’t go away and I finally went to the dentist. “Tap, tap, tap, does this hurt? How about this? Here’s a tiny piece of ice. Does this hurt? How about now?” And soon I was off to the endodontist (there’s a new word I learned today) to get a root canal.

As scary as a root canal sounds, it’s actually not that bad. Maybe it was because we caught this very early on (the x-ray didn’t even show anything wrong really), but the whole thing was over in like 20 minutes. I went in, the endodontist tapped around my tooth again and then before I knew it, he was breaking out the novacaine. You think he would have eased me into it, but 20 minutes (and $1200) later, I was off on my way home. I’ll admit that when I was younger, I didn’t really take care of my teeth and have had my fair share of cavities and subsequent fillings, so I still have this associated nervousness with dental procedures. But with all the cool things they have now– including the little cotton swab to apply topical anesthetic so you don’t even feel the needle go in– it’s all become a lot less painful. Modern medicine! (Granted that whole side of my mouth is sore now and it hurts to bite down on that side, but still.)

Weirdly enough though, I had to bring my x-ray along with my referral to the endodontist’s office. Between the dentist appointment and endodontist appointment, I stopped into work and we spent a few minutes peering at the x-ray with the help of my high-powered desk lamp, trying to make sense of it. And as part of my photo archiving project, I had this strange desire to scan it in and preserve it for all time. What is it about pictures of our insides that fascinate us so much?

When good computers go bad

So, I mistakenly thought I was qualified to install a CPU fan by myself. Silly me. My friend built me a custom computer about three years and it has been chugging along great all this time. However, the CPU fan was loud, so I bought (with his help in selecting one) a replacement with a “silent” rating. Now, I had early misgivings about whether I would be able to pull this off or not, so I was going to wait until someone could help me. But, in a fit of misguided enthusiasm, I ended up trying to install it myself. In the end, the only thing that was still working in that stinkin’ computer was that fan.

There are probably a whole handful of things I could do to try to fix it, but in an effort to find a quick solution, I threw money at the problem and went and bought a cheap replacement tower that was actually better than the old one. I figured I could just grab the data off of the old drive and then sell the parts from the original computer to make up most of the cost of the new computer. Ah, silly me. In the end, it was probably good that I bought the new computer because I can’t even get the new computer to see the main partition on the old drive, the partition filled with my old email, gigs and gigs of mp3 and video, photographs and more.

I’m still holding onto some hope that I might be able to grab some stuff off of the drive, but I’ve slowly started rebuilding my life. Thanks to things like Ofoto and Plaxo, I’m able to recover some stuff. But alas, I doubt I’ll be ever to recover over six years of collecting digital music. Especially since iTunes doesn’t have a data-in-the-sky model. Or just a download-as-many-times-as-you-need model. The record companies win again.

Home sweet home

After two weeks of drama and multiple relocations, I am finally back in my apartment. I breathed a huge sigh of relief when I walked through the door of my unaffected, but much missed apartment. Upon my return to my humble abode, I have learned a few things:

  • One way to remove the smoke smell from a fire-affected building is to put ozone machines around and let them run for 24 hours to deodorize the area. However, now, instead of smelling like smoke, the common areas of the building now smell like a dentist’s office– that weird bubble gum flouride scent. It gave me a headache just walking back and forth from the car to my apartment while I was moving back in. Maybe I would be less affected if I was a dentist.
  • When they say you should properly defrost your fridge when turning it off for an extended period of time, they really mean it. Despite the apartment management company entering the apartment earlier this week to empty the fridge of perishable items (i.e., almost everything save a few bottles of champagne and some cans of Diet Coke), the fridge did suffer from the sudden lack of electricity for over a week. I had a fair amount of bagged ice in the freezer and that not just melted, but leaked down into the regular fridge section, leaving a nice little puddle to clean up under and in the crisper drawers. And, even if your fridge is pretty clean, there is invariably some food molecules and such that end up lingering on the shelf surfaces and if there’s no power and therefore no refrigeration, those tiny molecules will end up spoiling and necessitating some cleanup. That was fun.*
  • Keep your sink clean of dirty dishes. There were only a few, but any lingering milk from your coffee or morning cereal will create a nice little petri dish surprise when you get back two weeks later. Yay for bleach and other harsh cleaning chemicals.
  • Plants need to be watered regularly. Seriously. My several window boxes of pansies weren’t doing that great in the first place, but they seemed to have made it through the worst especially since it rained during the second week of my absence and they are out far enough on the balcony to actually catch some rain. However, I have two very sad, very dehydrated variegated ginger plants. But I think they’re resilient– they were once one medium-sized (but still expensive) plant that over the course of six months, grew big enough to become two large plants. They are as tall as me! Granted I am a small person, but if I were a house plant, I would be a relatively big one.
  • Tivo is, in fact, one of the greatest things ever. When the power turned back on sometime late Tuesday, it just went back to doing it’s thing. So, when I returned, there was almost a week full of my favorite TV shows waiting for me, including new episodes of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy and this week’s Law & Order SVU.
  • Whatever time of day, wherever you are, there is always an episode of Law & Order on . This is something I realized not when I moved back home, but as I relocated around and didn’t have my hundreds of DirecTV channels. I think I may have watched more episodes of this show in the past two weeks than I have in all of the years prior. Between reruns on TBS, TNT and USA, this has got to be the most frequently run show in history. And I never get tired of it. I still watched three Tivo-ed episodes today when I returned home.

So, it was not the worst time of my life, but this was perhaps one of the most frustrating and unsettling two weeks of my life. I love to spend time in my apartment and I love to spend time alone. I have lived in this particular apartment for a year and a half now, but I have worked hard to make it exactly the way I want it, from decorating and redecorating to setting up all the little amenities that have become an integral part of my daily life and routine. And suddenly, when I was faced with the reality that I was not going to be able to live in that home I had created for an undetermined amount of time, a frustration, stress and sadness hung over my head constantly. Yes, I had somewhere to stay, complete with all the modern conveniences of life including cable TV and high-speed Internet, but it is difficult to go through every day without a place to call home, to call your own, to know where you are going to go at the end of the day and know that it isn’t just a temporary resting place. I felt always out of place with a forced loneliness and need. I felt unsafe. I know my brief experience does not even begin to compare to what actually homeless and disadvantaged people experience, but I have learned to truly appreciate my home even more after whatever slight taste of the experience I have had.

But now, I’m tucked back in my own bed with fresh sheets and my beloved comforter. And I’d just like to thank the manager and the staff at the Hilton Garden Inn (Mountain View) for being sympathetic and a great hotel staff and hotel in general. And thanks to my manicurist and friend for being sympathetic, for getting angry and worked up on my behalf, and for getting me the name of a personal injury lawyer just in case. And finally, thanks to my friend for letting me stay with him in his one-room palace when I didn’t want to stay in the other hotel they switched me to because I didn’t feel safe and for making me feel safe and at home.

* Did you ever notice that “fridge” is spelled with a “d,” but “refrigerator” (for which fridge is an abbreviation) and “refrigeration” are not? Ah, the eccentrities of the English language.

Fire

So, I’m sitting in a hotel room across the street from my apartment complex because of an electrical fire that started this morning around 7 am. I am thankful for the very nice accomodations and generous daily stipend the apartment management team has set up, that everyone is safe and the free high-speed Internet available at this hotel (although I can’t seem to connect to anything for work– perhaps for the best). Of course, given those things, I am very tired and more than a bit restless as I wonder when I can return to my humble abode and if there was any damage done, whether it was from the fire, from putting the fire out or complications with the electricity (oh Tivo, please be safe).

Despite the fire being out and the damage being seemingly contained, we’re still not allowed into the building because of the danger of asbestos. However, the firemen were nice enough to put on a whole lot of gear and go into the apartments to retrieve essential items so that we can get through the next couple of days (the price you pay for a fire breaking out on a three-day weekend). I made out my little list with all of the things I would like to have for the next few days, but then I prioritized and marked the items the fireman should actually bother with. Realistically, it would be easier for me to go and buy clothes than having a very large fireman searching through my underwear drawer for matching bras and panties. However, he did make a brave effort anyway to get some clothes and in the end, here is just a sampling of the weird items I have with me:

  • My (work) laptop
  • My briefcase with all important office keys, my new digital camera, and the bottle of nail polish from my last manicure (for convenient touch-ups)
  • Some clothes, including a not very useful assortment of underwear and a velour jacket I threw on when the fireman (woman, actually) was practically beating down my door to evacuate the building
  • Contact lenses plus related accessories as well as backup glasses
  • Almost the entire line of Dermalogica products that I had in my bathroom plus random hair care products that were with them
  • Disc 1 of the West Wing first season DVD set (happened to be in my laptop)
  • My (khaki) Coach purse
  • My watch
  • Random CDs in my car that I never listen to because I usually listen to my iPod
  • My wallet and my Blackberry, both of which I grabbed when evacuating the building
  • The plastic laundry basket all of this was carried down in

What I would also like to have (and would have gotten if allowed to get my stuff myself):

  • My iPod
  • My Blackberry charger
  • All of my clothes and shoes
  • My Tivo (I still haven’t watched the newest ER and I am almost physically incapable of watching live TV)
  • My brand new Tiffany Elsa Peretti necklace and my custom made ID necklace
  • My silver hoop earrings that I wear almost everyday in four of my five ear piercings
  • Some real luggage to put everything in

And while all of this is going on, one of my best friends is in the hospital with appendicitis! And here I thought it was going to be a quiet weekend.

Breasts

Pink Breast Cancer Ribbon Breasts. Our culture is fascinated with them. Small, large, real, fake. There are a thousand reasons by which we try to explain our fascination with them– our early attachment to the breasts of our mothers, our obsession with sex– but, how do you explain the special relationship women feel with their own breasts? As much as my own breasts bother me sometimes– they make it difficult to find clothes that fit, they make my back hurt, they often bring uninvited attention on me– they are mine and they are part of who I am, what I am. Whether fairly or unfairly, they have shaped who I am and what I am. On good days, I flaunt them proudly and rest assured in the fact that they are real and big and beautiful. On bad days, I cross my arms over them and hope that no one notices and struggle through back aches and the never-ending search for clothes that fit. It is a strange love/hate relationship I have with these silly breasts.

And in some ways, breasts really are silly. In this modern day of baby formula and bottles and plastic nipples, breasts are, for the most part, non-essential and most of the time, non-functional. If anything, society places an unwarranted value on breast size and beauty, encouraging both men and women to judge women (and the men they are associated with) by them and women to place their own self-esteem in them. They are, at the end of the day, purely cosmetic and yet, a woman’s breasts hold an incredible place in her definition of who she is and how she carries herself, whether consciously or subconsciously. And perhaps this is why the threat of breast cancer haunts us. While there are countless life-threatening diseases that affect both men and women, including breast cancer, the effect of breast cancer on women is such a peculiar phenomenon because of the special relationship women have with their own breasts. In America, a woman dies of breast cancer every twelve minutes– a tragedy that we must work and fight against because everyday, more and more women experience the shock of finding that first lump or the anxiety of having a biopsy or the pain of hearing an unfortunate diagnosis. Everyday, how many women are faced with the loss of one or both of their breasts?

Men have no real counterpart through which they may understand this phenomenon– this phenomenon of a cosmetic loss that can be so life-changing. Yes, men can and do contract breast cancer as well, but even after a mastectomy, the change is not nearly as pronounced as for women and a man’s breasts do not hold nearly as dear a place for a man as they do for women. And so, once again, we are reminded that men and women are equal, but still different.

Outside of the threat to our actual lives, when we are faced with breast cancer and the prospect of losing one or both breasts, we are faced with a greater loss than just to our physical appearance. Even if a woman was to opt for reconstructive surgery after a mastectomy and thus, not be faced with a significant change in physical appearance, the loss of one or both breasts is a deeply personal and psychologically traumatizing experience. It is the loss of a part of ourselves that has shaped how others have looked at us and how we have looked at ourselves and how we have defined ourselves, even if it is just to say that my body looks like this and this is how my body moves and this is how I move in my body and when you look at me, you see this. Suddenly, we are different and it doesn’t not affect us in the same way that losing a functional part of us would– if we were to lose a limb or a sense– but it does affect us deeply and truly.

Exit row guilt

What you feel when you’re sitting in your roomy exit row seat and you watch the other passengers tiredly waiting in the aisle to get back to their cramped, not-so-roomy regular seats. This is only magnified by the fact that I am a small person that doesn’t really need that much leg room. I just wanted to tell all those people looking at me, “This is just the luck of the draw! And I had to sit in a middle seat in the back on the way to Newark from San Francisco! I have suffered too!”

Vacation: Day 1

Things I did today:

  1. Slept in. Although I did have a dream about work.
  2. Caught up with my TiVo.
  3. Cleaned my house.
  4. Agonized over my yet unshipped eBay purchase.
  5. Got my nails done. (Current nail color: Cognac by Essie.)
  6. Gave in to my temptation to check my work email. 91 messages. Scary.
  7. Bought and installed a new 160 GB hard drive, although the partitions are all messed up because of the 137 GB confusion.
  8. Picked up some shampoo finally.
  9. Had some milk tea and Q-Pop chicken. Yum.

The last two done while dodging a strange drunk guy in downtown (and being mistaken for being with him/his friend). All in all, a surprisingly productive day for a vacation day. On the agenda for tomorrow: sleep.