Thursday, April 19, 2007

Creepy

Creepy. Really creepy. As creepy and horrendously sad the V Tech tragedy already was, it just gets creepier the more we learn about the murderer of so many innocent people, people whose families, friends and even their nation are left shaking our heads and mourning their senseless deaths.

Pretty much once I first heard about the shooting I found the Hot Air blog that constantly updated with new information they had found, often well in advance of what even the vulture media could find or report. As I read along on the updates, I wasn't so surprised that the jerk was a loner. Or even that he'd been a stalker. The nature of his writings were kind of more than I expected but still not really terribly surprising. Having a professor and a tutor that were both concerned enough to take some precautions were a little odder yet. Making women uncomfortable in class by taking pictures of their legs is way over the line and creepy. The imaginary girlfriend that called him Spanky and that he called Jelly indicated that he really wasn't right. But when I went to take a look at anything new that had been posted, I have to say that I was completely shocked by the most recent development that explained at least one thing that happened during that two hour gap between the shooting - the creep took a package to the post office to mail to NBC a package of his deranged hatred in the form of pictures and videos.

I struggle with wanting to look away but finding it hard to do so. I want to take a moment to learn something about each person whose life was stolen just as a way of showing respect for fellow human beings that I didn't know. Something that makes them more than just a number of 1 through 32. I'm like that. Just my personal way of being. And then I want to understand still "why" and "how" (maybe it's human nature to think that if we can identify it, we can prevent it, even if it's not entirely true?), which leads to me this killer who is so creepy that it's distracting and just hard to stay focused on the place where my thoughts really belong - with those whose hearts are grieving for their sudden loss. I cannot even begin to imagine any words of comfort, but a glimpse of each person's story and a look at their photos at least gives a thumbnail sketch of who it is that's missed so terribly. Perhaps there's some comfort in knowing that so many others are doing the same and are keeping the families in our thoughts. Maybe not. But I do hope. And there's really not much else that can be done anyway. Sadly.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Sadness

Like so many others, I've spent much of my day wondering "why" and "how" something like the shooting rampage at Virginia Tech could have happened, and my mind and heart turns to the families of those affected. For each person who lost a life, there is a mother, father, aunt, cousin, best friend, spouse or child or even just a neighbor who adored the person. It's so sad, really, when there are so many people and you multiply that by those who will miss them. My thoughts and my heart are with them all.

Then there's the question of those two hours when 2 were already dead in the dorms, yet others were allowed to wander through their typical morning routine and schedule unknowing. I heard the response from officials that it was thought to be an isolated incident domestic in nature that was done and over already and that the suspect had likely left the campus and perhaps was leaving the state, but I don't understand that. I wasn't there, that's true, but common sense would say that a decent standard emergency response would be something different from this. Especially in this day and age of instant information. If a killer is on the loose, why not lock down right then? What's the worst that would happen if it turns out that the suspect had indeed left and was no longer a threat - so a few classes would be missed, but 30 more real people with real families and loved ones are more likely to live. Really, locking down right then, after a double murder, doesn't seem like such a stretch. You can always re-open things once the person is in custody or once it's more certain that there is no immediate danger. Sending warnings about the first shooting (no mention that 2 were dead) several minutes after 30 more were already dead in the second shooting and only then deciding to lock things down just doesn't make much sense. Maybe it's hard in the heat of the moment to make good decisions - I could see that - but that's why it's critical to have this kind of thing even as a general plan in mind in advance. No plan can address every possible situation, but this one seemed like a good candidate for even a simple plan to quickly (not 2 hours later) notify everyone and temporarily suspend normal schedules.

I'm still amazed at how quickly information travels because of the internet and blogging. Long before anyone official could provide much information, it was all right there online - sure, there are rumors and speculation (which then get dispelled) to sort through and eventually separate from fact, but it is still just amazing how instant the first hand accounts are posted and how students used this instant information to get info and stay connected. Let's use this amazing technology for good.

Until then, more information is sure to come out in the days to follow, and hopefully some reflection on how our schools, workplaces and other areas where we spend so much time can be made safer or better plans put into place in case those safety measures fail because this one makes me shake my head and wonder if the outcome could have been and would have been different - I think there's a good chance the answer is yes.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Plucking

Eyebrows are such an odd and funny thing. For the first several years of my adult life I blissfully went about my life giving my eyebrows not a second thought. They were just there, and that was it. I knew that my mom used to go and let them put hot wax on her face because of her bushy eyebrows, but I was too young to really "get it." Then one day while in Japan my very dear and apparently very gay friend calls to explain the trouble he was having with plucking his eyebrows. It seems that as soon as he would do one side and then try to make the other match, that second side would have just a little less, so he'd go back to that first side to even it out, but then that side would have less and so on and so on trying to get them even in an endless and vicious cycle of pain and unsymmetrical-ness. Out of curiosity and in support of my friend, I bought some tweezers and gave it a try. Sitting on the tatami in the hot summer giving this thing a try, after just a couple of token plucks I started sweating even more from the anticipation of each little pain as I plucked and my legs started sticking to the tatami, so I decided it hurt too much and went back to not bothering. And I didn't bother again for a long time.

But then a few years ago I realized that my eyebrows really just didn't look good. I didn't quite have a unibrow, but I didn't have that nice eyebrow shape that quietly adds something nice to someone's face, so I gave it another whirl. Fearful of all that is not symmetrical, I decided that this should be left to professionals, even if it cost $10 for something I could do for free at home. So I started going to the wax people once in awhile. With varying results. Sometimes it would be as perfect as I'd hoped. Sometimes my eyebrows looked like horseshoes with weird little hooks on the inside ends. And one time my eyebrows came out pretty OK, but the bitch at the register tried to screw me when I needed change in singles for the tip. I paid with a $20 and wanted the $10 back as a $5 and 5 $1's. Instead, she tried giving me 2 $5's expecting that I intended to give a 50% tip. Wrong. The eyebrows didn't look that fabulous. She made a production of having to open the register again and acted really snotty about the whole thing, and that was the last time I went to the salon for my eyebrows. Instead, I gave the nearby beauty school a try figuring they could still do a better job than I could. And she did, but it took about 45 minutes. That's a long time to sit there and keep waiting for it to hurt.

And so for the last several years I've just done the damn things myself. With varying results. Usually it turns out fine, and I've been very careful to avoid that whole plucking one more to match the other cycle. What I didn't expect is this new problem I currently have. At some point, I must have plucked just a little too soon or just not thoroughly because instead of getting to just do them all at once occasionally, somehow about every 5 days there are new ones there to pluck that weren't there when I did the rest 5 days ago. It's like they are all growing in on different schedules. This doesn't work for me. I'm not an every 5 days kind of girl. My life is way too short for that.

And so the only solution I can see is to grow the damn things out all the way until they are all on the same schedule and start again if I still feel like caring about something so silly as eyebrows. I'm really not that kind of girl.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

That's Played Out

There comes a point when it's just time to say goodbye (like when you are moving), and so far I've filled 3 boxes plus an extra large Target shopping bag full of goodbye from my closet. It's hard for someone like me with a huge sense of "waste not, want not" that often comes at the expense of any sense of fashion I could otherwise have in that spot. Mixed up as it is, Tom gradually became my fashion sense, and without him, I'd still be wearing stirrup pants and shoulder pads. Maybe even neon. And 80's perm big hair with bigger bangs.

It all started a few years back when I would regularly leave the house in stirrup pants and one of those very long sweaters that goes down to about mid-thigh. This was up until probably as recently as 3-5 years ago, well past the prime of this fashion choice. Back when I was in college in the mid-90's, this was perfectly acceptable attire (well, I think it was anyway, but then, I probably had no fashion sense back then, either). It never even occurred to me that I was committing a crime of fashion or that one quick peek around any room would have tipped me off that I was the only one dressed that way. I was blissfully oblivious. Then slowly, and I'm not even sure how, Tom somehow slipped messages into my mind as I slept or something to where I actually started looking around and saw that what I was wearing really was not OK in this decade. For the longest time, Tom wouldn't really say anything directly about this little problem of mine because even though he knew it was wrong, it didn't bother him if I wanted to leave the house like I was in a time-warp, and he didn't want to hurt my feelings (women can sometimes be sensitive to stuff like that if you say "by the way, everything you wear is wrong"). Gradually, as I started to catch on, I would ask him things like "do the shoulder pads in this sweater look too 80's?" or "do you think these leggings are OK to wear in public?," and he always just seemed to know what was right or not. So I started wearing less of that kind of stuff from "back in the day" and tried to at least be within this decade even if I will never be confused for a very now fashion kind of girl. I do draw the line at personal comfort - if it isn't comfortable or doesn't feel like "me," I'm not wearing it, but it turns out that there are plenty of choices beyond leggings, stirrup pants, too long sweaters and shoulder padded everything, so I've made it through the transition without much scarring.

But I kept all of those sins in my closet. Just in case. Not in case they come back into fashion (because I probably wouldn't notice for another decade anyway), but just in case I want to wear them again because I just do. And so with a bold flash of "oh my God we have to move, and I have so many old clothes that I just have to weed out," I started mercilessly sorting through my closet and ridding myself of my fashion shortcomings. By now, Tom is not shy about telling me something from my youth is no longer OK because I've asked him to help me not leave the house wearing something I'll be embarrassed about when I think of it 5 years later and realize how bad it was. So Tom kicked back on the bed and watched as I pulled things out one by one. For the most part, I think I was doing a really stellar job for someone like me, but once in awhile I would need his help in moments of weakness.

Like the ultra-thick and very warm sweater that does happen to land mid-thigh and has some geometric kind of design and kind of screams a decade or more ago (especially with the maroon leggings that go with it). Tom helped me to let it go. I did, however, keep it's twin that is just as cozy but has a more timeless motif (well, in my opinion anyway, just not in Tom's).

Or like the very floral "thing" that I'm not sure has a technical name - think pantsuit/dress where it's a one-piece that is probably almost technically a pantsuit, but the legs hit mid-shin and are so flared that it gives the illusion that it is a actually a dress. I had the delusion that this illusion was acceptable, but with Tom's help at looking at it more objectively, I realize that it does look pretty strange. Into a goodbye box.

Or like this really warm skiing jacket I have (and have only worn once, the day I tried downhill skiing, which I will never do again, which is a new story for a new day). The jacket is black and goes really well with my black snow pants (also worn once - same day). The jacket is lined with fleece, and there's a part of the collar where you can see the fleece. Problem is that the fleece is neon pink. And there are other neon pink, neon green and neon yellow accents throughout this piece of attire. I was having trouble with the thought of putting it in one of the goodbye boxes. Then with one sentence, Tom brought me to my senses.

"Neon? That's played out."

I did insist on keeping my one "good suit" that I bought in the mid-90's for my interview for the Japan job thing (and it worked! even with the big bangs I know I had because they are in my passport picture), even if it has shoulder pads and big gold buttons that made Tom ask me if my next interview would be for a cruise line. A friend at work suggested that I could just trade out those buttons for less gaudy ones and be good to go, so I'm glad I resisted.

Oh, and I did keep my one favorite pair of leggings that have a texture like corduroy with thick cords. Just in case.

Most of the rest of the items that are "played out" are in goodbye boxes on their way to the nearest donation site this weekend so that others can take my pain away if they so desire.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Goddamn Big Ass Duffel Bag on Wheels

For many months I've thought "wow, we have a lot of crap that we should really weed out in case we ever have to move." I've longed for the simpler days of college and Japan just after that when I just didn't have much stuff. When I moved back to the States from Japan, I shipped about 15 boxes on the slow boat to Seattle (my sister has a friend there that was willing to accept them, and it looked like I might wind up in the Northwest, so I said a prayer that I was right and sent them on their way), and then I just had my Meow Face, a big backpack and my Goddamn Big Ass Duffel Bag on Wheels to handle. That was pretty much all I owned (well, that and a piano still in my sister's living room - another story for another day, but I'll just say she's good to me that way, and I am grateful).

But back to this Goddamn Big Ass Duffel Bag on Wheels. This thing has been wrong from the start. I bought it to bring to Japan because it could clearly hold a lot, close to all I owned in those leaner days. The wheels are deceiving because there is no comfortable way to actually hold the handle (just a strap thing, not the expandable/collapsable kind) and pull it along unless you slouch way down, and that's not comfortable, either. I expected that when I was met at the local train station by my new boss that he'd be this 25-35 year old guy that was fairly strong and could help me manage this silly bag. Turns out my boss was a woman who was barely 5' tall (if that) on her tallest day and couldn't have weighed more than about 90 pounds. She had to call for reinforcement. Great first impression - "hi, nice to meet you" (in very poorly pronounced Japanese) - "I'm the foreigner who insisted on bringing more than I could possibly carry because this bag looked like the perfect thing since it had wheels, and now I have to call upon you to help me before I've even met you" (in clear English, but in my mind only).

The Goddamn Big Ass Duffel Bag on Wheels struck yet one more time. After being in Japan for 3 years, I'd forgotten what a pain in the ass this bag was, so when it was time to move back "home" to the States, I stuffed that bitch to the gills to save on shipping. Oh, it held plenty. You could probably house a small child in it if you set your mind to it, but that's never been the problem. It's what you do with the thing once you've done that. So by this time, I'm pretty savvy about the whole having your luggage transported to the airport in advance by takyuubin so that you don't have to take it up and down endless flights of stairs at each train station transfer on the way to the airport. The greatest service in the world and worth every yenny. They are awesome. Unless you have a Goddamn Big Ass Duffel Bag on Wheels. I was confident enough in my Japanese at that point that I called and made the arrangements, and the man even showed up. He walked into my apartment, took one look at the bag, tried lifting the end with the handle, set it back down and started mumbling polite but vague apologies and left. Without the Goddamn Big Ass Duffel Bag on Wheels. My flight "home" was leaving the next day, and I knew that it would be physically impossible for me to take it to the airport (especially along with my kitty and other huge backpack). Finally, with no real choice, I called my boss (new location, new boss-this one was a guy), and after about 15 minutes of arguing (while the cat he didn't know I had wandered between his legs), he convinced the takyuubin folks to come back if he promised to help them carry it down my 4 flights of stairs. When I greeted the bag at the airport after traveling about 4+ hours to get there, the Goddamn Big Ass Duffel Bag on Wheels was way overweight to fly, but after some wrangling and dividing some into another box, they waived the fee since I was already paying a bunch more to bring my kitty.

By the time that flight out of Tokyo was delayed and I arrived at LAX, my kitty and I had been traveling for well over 20 hours since leaving my apartment, and we still had that last connecting flight to "home." Of course, I'd had to reclaim the Goddamn Big Ass Duffel Bag on Wheels to go through customs, so I was carting it around to connect to the next flight - a flight which it turns out had been canceled. So I'm directed to a different airline to start the fun all over again about how big and heavy the Goddamn Big Ass Duffel Bag on Wheels is (even though it was not nearly as big as it had originally been since putting some of it into that other box) and how much more they want me to pay. If the flight hadn't canceled, it would have been no big deal and no discussion of additional charges, but the new airline wanted something like another $200. So I handed them the paperwork from when I paid the fee to bring my catty and insisted that the amount (in yen) and the other information (written in Japanese) clearly explained that I'd already paid (though I hadn't since it had been waived), and without someone there to translate it, I was on my way with my cat, my Goddamn Big Ass Duffel Bag on Wheels, my backpack and that smaller box of overflow from the Goddamn Big Ass Duffel Bag on Wheels and no additional charge. About 5 hours later (and well over 25 hours after leaving my apartment), we were finally "home."

To this day, I have that Goddamn Big Ass Duffel Bag on Wheels. It moves with me every time I relocate, but it's been pared down to carryable/wheelable if you slouch. Now there's just a bunch of crap in it to weed out and sort through so that I can get rid of the damn thing once and for all with this move. What's in there has haunted me when I've thought about having to weed it out because I know it's full of tough decisions (cute gifts from my students, ashtrays from various izakaya, lots of folding fans, a random belt to a dress I no longer own-that one is easy, and not sure what else), but this weekend will be the one when I finally put it to rest.

Still, moving was simpler when the Goddamn Big Ass Duffel Bag on Wheels and a few boxes were all I had.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Pretty Pictures

So the whole moving concept is now in full swing. We spent all of last weekend apartment hunting, complete with my handy and very obsessive spreadsheet that has been honed to perfection complete with scoring (100 possible points) based on all kinds of things that matter to me, like having a pantry (5 points). No washer/dryer in unit is minus 200 points, as is ridiculous rent or having to start each morning with a bad left turn out from the complex on a busy road without a signal. Or balconies that are not covered because they supposedly look classy (but are completely useless unless you like wet stuff). That eliminated a bunch off the bat.

What really irritates me, though, is when you go to apartment websites to look at some pictures, and they insist on proudly displaying about 5 showing how gorgeous their "clubhouse"/rental office is. Unless something goes terribly wrong, we're not planning on living in the "clubhouse." The other 5 pictures are usually outside shots of the complex. Again, while it's good to see if it looks decent from the outside, we're not planning to live on the lawn unless they also jack our rent up $200. Oh, and then the pool - always lots of pictures of that, too. A pool is basically a pool, and if we stay 5 years, I might get in it twice, so frankly I don't care what it looks like (unless there are green floaties, in which case they wouldn't likely show any picture of it).

Apartment marketing people, listen up. Here's what I want to see on your site and all of the places you advertise: current rates, detailed floor plans, and copious amounts of pictures of the *inside* so that I can *see* where I might actually be *living*. After that, include one or two of the outside. Anything beyond that is just "interesting" but not even remotely helpful.

After all of the eliminations on paper and just the "short list" of places worth our time to actually visit, we set out on our hunt and fell in love with the first place we saw (not perfect, but no apartment could actually score 100/100 with my strict criteria). In the spirit of due diligence, we then went to about 15 more, and we met some odd people, like the chick at the place with a 1 cat limit who said she has 8 cats and tried to encourage me to take in foster cats if we move in. Or the place where the chick walked so fast we could barely keep up and talked even faster - I have a page of scribbled notes with no recollection of what the place even looked like inside. By day 2, we got smart and just started calling to see if places even had available in our time frame what we actually wanted - that eliminated a bunch, too. No point taking the time to sit in a place that smells like air freshener (coconut seems popular) to find out that even if it meets our criteria and is wonderful, we can't have it.

Turns out we could have just stopped looking after the first place because that's the one we are taking. Still, it's good to know that as I drive by all of the other places every day, I don't have to wonder if one of those would have been better. Either they are not better, not within budget or they weren't available.

Oh, and ours did have some decent pictures of the inside of the place, so they get some extra points right there. Plus now I can keep looking at the pictures to imagine where I'll put things and how nice it will be in our new home - when I'm not packing and weeding out years of crap, that is.