Falling Back From Daylight Savings Time (DST)

The end of Daylight Savings Time (DST) couldn’t come any sooner. My body’s internal time clock knew for some time that turning back the clock was fast approaching. I kept going to bed earlier each night for a month, sometimes crashing in bed after getting home from work, to sync up with the soon-to-be time adjustment. With the clock turned back one hour, I’m now falling asleep between 9:00PM and 11:00PM, waking up at 5:45AM and getting on the freeway to my non-writing job by 7:10AM.

Of course, this may have more to do with being on a low-carb diet than turning back the hour.

As part of this biannual event, I went around my studio apartment to change the time and switch out the batteries on all the clocks. A single AA battery went into each of the analog clocks in the office, kitchen and bathroom. Areas where I can lose track of time if I didn’t have a clock to watch, especially in the mornings when I’m getting ready for work. The AA battery in the analog travel clock and the backup 9V battery in the digital alarm clock next to my bed were also replaced. The smoke detector felt neglected and started chirping for a new 9V battery as well. Like a broken clock that tells time correctly twice a day, all the clocks in my apartment are now correct for a second time this year.

Should DST be abolished as some people have advocated over the years?

I would say yes. We live in a global economy that is no longer dictated by the dawn-to-dusk cycles of an agrarian economy. That’s true even for farmers. I have an uncle in Idaho who owns a top of the line John Deere tractor with air-conditioning and floodlights that allows him to mow and bale hay for 16 hours per day, whether the sun is shining or not. He works three months during the summer and takes the other nine months off, making a cool quarter-million a year before taxes and equipment expenses as an independent contractor.

Then again, how would I know when to change out the batteries in my clocks?

Texas Mom Jailed For Letting Kids Play Outside

As a native Californian who was born and raised here, I always have to wonder what’s in the water in Texas when weird things happen down yonder. A mom was thrown in jail for letting her young kids play outside after a busybody neighbor called the police to report them as being unsupervised. The stay-at-home mom was watching her kids from a lawn chair. The police officer who showed up didn’t believe her and arrested her for child endangerment. In the finest American tradition, the mother had filed a lawsuit against the police department, the police officer and the busybody neighbor.

We don’t know why the busybody neighbor called the police in Texas as she made no comment on the matter. If this had happen in California, it would be because the noisome kids were driving down the real estate values in the neighborhood.

Seriously.

Two roommates and I were renting the front apartment of a triplex not far from San Jose City College in 2002, which meant that we had to take care of the front yard. After a roommate’s mother raped my petunias to make potpourri, I stopped watering the planter and the naked petunias died.

An older neighbor lady walking her dog one morning informed us that the dead petunias had caused the real estate value of her house to drop by $25,000 USD. I asked her if her house was on the market and she said no. When I pointed out that her house has no relative value until it was on the market, she left in a huff and threaten to call the landlord.

We ended up moving shortly thereafter, but not because of the busybody neighbor down the street was fretting about real estate values.

A bisexual man with his straight girlfriend and his gay boyfriend—all Mexicans—moved into the front apartment of the triplex next door. He accused our Mexican roommate of peeping into his bedroom window while he was having sex with his girlfriend and lusting after his boyfriend. Mexican roommate told him he was stupid in Spanish and slammed the front door on him. Apparently, in Mexico, calling someone stupid and slamming the front door was socially unacceptable.

After a string of late night visits from the police inquiring about his legal status, the Mexican roommate moved out. The other roommate and I moved into a smaller apartment a month later. The landlord’s wife started pulling out the dead petunias as we handed over the keys to the apartment, restoring the neighborhood real estate values by $25,000 USD. No one gave us a commission for this economic miracle.

From what I later heard from another neighbor, the neighborhood was in turmoil for six months from the sexual hijinks of these neighbors before they were evicted. That probably didn’t effect the neighborhood real estate values as much as the dead petunias did. This situation was truly Californian. If this had happened in Texas, the troika next door would have been deported back to Mexico—or California.

An Ordinary Bio Hazard At Apartment Complex

Bio Hazard WarningI came home from work, went over to the mailbox gazebo that sat in a cluster of two-story apartment buildings, and stopped at a paper sign—“Warning Bio Hazard”—taped to yellow tape that cordoned off several apartment building entrances and a patch of lawn. Since the apartment complex went pet-friendly this year, my front door step has become a litter box for any passing two- or four-legged animal. I couldn’t think of a worse bio hazard than that.

Okay, maybe an exploding diaper bag in the parking lot. Seen that a few times in the seven years that I lived here. Always in the middle of the parking lot, as if the parents opened the car door, dropped the diaper bag like a bag of kittens, and sped away before anyone could call the cops. Not even the neighborhood crows would peck away as such a nasty package.

A leasing agent stood 20 feet away on the other side of the cordoned off area, telling me that I have to come around the backside of the building if I wanted to pick up my mail. When I asked about the nature of the bio hazard, she declined to comment and said it was nothing to worry about. Uh, huh. Serious enough to put a sign up but not serious enough to call 911 for a hazmat team.

As I went around the building and entered the mailbox gazebo to pick up my mail, I noticed that a family with two small children were waiting outside of the yellow tape. A sheet of plastic laid in front of their apartment door. Both the front and patio doors were wide open, as if airing out something bad from inside. That narrowed down the possible nature of the bio hazard as being an indoor menace. Maybe the apartment was infested with bedbugs like mine was three years ago.

About 15 minutes after I got back to my apartment and left a voicemail for the leasing office to call me back on what the bio hazard was, a pair of Servpro trucks pulled up in the parking lot and two people donned in white bunny suits went in with their equipment. I can imagine an exploding toilet, the maintenance guy coming out, and, after finding the bathroom covered with wall-to-wall mold, declaring the apartment to a bio hazard danger zone. The trucks left after a half-hour. Perhaps the bio hazard wasn’t that serious after all.

Updated 13 September 2012: The leasing office neither confirmed nor denied that a bio hazard incident took place. So far, no zombie apocalypse—yet.

A Lacking Curiosity About NASA’s Mars Rover

NASA Curiosity Rover

On Monday night I was busy writing a new blog post. At least, I was trying to. With the 2012 London Olympics blaring from the TV in the living room and NASA TV blaring from my roommate’s iPad in the dining room, I was getting a conflicting headache in my office. If that wasn’t bad enough, Twitter was going bonkers. Seven minutes of terror became seven minutes of distractions as NASA landed their newest rover, Curiosity, on the planet Mars with picture-perfect precision.

Since I’m taking a summer break to restructure my writing business, I’m busy staying on top of current tasks like blog posts and implementing some big changes. I’m so busy that I don’t have time to watch NASA drop a one-ton vehicle on the Martian surface or the pair of Redbox DVDs —“Lockout” and “Piranha DD”—that I picked up for the weekend. I couldn’t avoid it entirely. I live in a crowded studio apartment, where the living room, dining room and office with a pair of twin beds in between are crammed into an L-shaped room.

Like the Olympics, I wasn’t going to avoid NASA TV. Although I didn’t watch it, I caught the grist of the audio feed and monitored the Twitter tweets that raced across my timeline. The tweets before, during and after the landing were what really distracted me (listed below in no particular order).

  • Some people found it ironic that they were watching NASA TV on an iPad that has more computing power than the flight computer for the Apollo 11 moon launch. (Monday was also Neil Amstrong’s 82nd birthday.)
  • The best way to watch history in the making is to have NASA TV and the Twitter timeline opened in separate side-by-side windows on your computer.
  • Editorial cartoonist Jeffery Koterba tweeted a Curiosity cartoon that he drew. Yes, you have to go out a long ways to find someone with an unbiased opinion about the 2012 presidential election. Mars is definitely a red planet.
  • Adrianne Curry’s Star Wars themed birthday pictures of her in a black bikini.
  • Since the initial black-and-white pictures of the wheel looked like ultrasound pregnancy pictures, I tweeted: “Bad, Rover, bad. You know you need to use protection.”
  • Here’s the proud father of all these ultrasound pregnancy pictures (via @Oatmeal).
  • Quote: “NASA scientists at their monitors, I think Jerry Lewis will break in and tell us to keep calling in w/donations” (via @EverettMaroon)
  • Quote: “If there is intelligent life on Mars, can you book me a room, thanks, because I am outta here?” (via @HogsAteMySister)

After the brouhaha was over, I took some Nyquil, went to bed, and woke up the next morning to finish the blog post before starting my non-writing tech job (i.e., the job that really pays the bills). As the search for extinct extraterrestrial life continues on the solar system’s most barren planet, I had an excellent idea for a science fiction short story involving the new Mars rover.

California July 4th Fireworks Gone Bust

San Diego had a spectacular fireworks display that lasted 30 seconds on July 4th, 2012, when the Big Bay Boom show went up in smoke all at once. A computer glitch and/or virus may have caused the ignition of all the fireworks.

 

The three major firework shows in Silicon Valley were no different with a low cloud cover obscuring the night sky. Depending on where you were in San Jose, Santa Clara and Mountain View, you heard the huge air cannons go boom, fireworks go shrieking into the clouds, and bright lights flashing inside the clouds. A very muted celebration since the holiday fell on Wednesday this year. Surprisingly, at my apartment complex, no one was shooting bottle rockets off the balconies.

My Car Finally Kicked The Hubcap

My Car Finally Kicked The Hubcap

I tempted fate a few weeks ago. After five trips to Sacramento (1,500 miles) and three trips to the mechanic’s shop (dead starter, coolant leak and funky alternator) before and after my father died from lung cancer, I took a final ride in my car to pick up my father’s ashes from the Willow Glen post office. Not surprisingly, my father’s old car made it to the post office and died. Since I choose not to replace the alternator for $700 USD, and the alternator stopped charging the battery, my car finally kicked the hubcap.

Until my father abandoned his old car in my carport in 2007 as a birthday present, I never needed a driver’s license. I took public transit everywhere since I was teenager. Alas, an abandoned car in my carport was a serious lease violation at my apartment complex. (Then and now, the leasing office didn’t care as long the rent was paid.) With the help of an friend from church, we spent 15 minutes each Sunday morning to drive around the neighborhood. I got my driver’s license two months later after two hours of driving time. I was 38-years-old at the time.

Like my father, his old car was a proverbial pain in the ass. Took me four years to find and fix all the things that he neglected to tell me about. Always having at least one major repair job each year that he reluctantly paid for since I kept insisting that he had given me a lemon for my birthday. The final straw came earlier this year. I was driving down the I-5 towards Sacramento when the tire blew out and ripped out the wiring harness. That should have been the kiss of death, but my father re-wired the wiring harness as I drove around in his truck for a week. As my father got sicker with lung cancer, the car started breaking down faster than I could repair it.

Death became inevitable for both of them.

I called AAA and the car was towed home to sit in my carport ass backwards. Another tow truck came out this past weekend to take it away and the driver gave me a check for $265 USD from Pick-N-Pull. A melancholy moment. My poor old car looked sad being towed away with two magnetic red lights on the trunk. I almost cried as much for that old car than I did for my father passing away. Meanwhile I’m getting a ride from a friend in the morning and taking public transit home in the afternoon for work. Within a few weeks, I’m hoping to get another used car in the near future. One with fewer problems.

The Welcome Mat After An Unwelcome Visit

Welcome Mat After An Unwelcome VisitI have suffered various indignities from living in an apartment complex for nearly seven years: paint falling from the upstairs balcony and the clean up that didn’t happen, kitchen flooded by plumber in the downstairs apartment, an extended water repair and drunk kids ripping off the car radio antenna. A new item can be added to that list.

The apartment complex became pet friendly this year, allowing residents to have cats or small dogs. After growing up with a depressed mother who decided to become a cat lady—my family had 91 cats in a three-bedroom house in the early 1990’s—I never wanted to be around small furry animals again. That’s why I’m a fish person. My nine-inch-long green terror cichlid fish has never given me or anyone else any problems. I wasn’t thrilled to find out about—and didn’t pay—the $1,000 USD pet deposit for having a 25-gallon fish tank.

The hallway outside my apartment stank like a cat litter box that went bad in a hurry. I assumed that it was one of the apartments and complained to the leasing office. The maintenance guy propped open the fire door at the end of the hallway, ignoring the posted fire department notice not to do that. The smell didn’t disappear after a few days. I noticed that my rustic welcome mat had an unusual stain on the top, flipped it over to find a bigger stain, and  a matching stain on the hallway carpet.

I have found the source of the smell—and I was pissed.

This was the closest I ever came to having an OCD attack. That some animal—cat, dog, drunk neighbor, all of the above—had fouled my welcome mat with an unwelcome visit drove me up the wall. The next morning I took pictures with my iPad 2, showed them to the leasing agent at the office, and the maintenance guy was sent out with industrial rug cleaner to scrub down the hallway carpet from fire door to fire door. The overwhelming stench is gone but I can still detect a lingering residue.

I’m leaving the front doorstep bare for now. While I have an identical rustic welcome mat for the balcony doorstep that I could move to the front doorstep, I’m going to keep it there for now. I’m moving out of the apartment complex at the end of summer. I don’t need any further indignities from marauding cats, dogs and/or drunk neighbors.

The Water Repair Of Our Discontent

A 24-hour notice went up on all the apartment doors this past Saturday night informing us that the water would be shut off for repairs on Monday from 8:30AM to 6:30PM. The timing was terrible. I had planned on doing laundry the next day. Although the laundry rooms were always busy on the weekends, everyone and their mother was doing laundry before the water main was shut off. I wasn’t able to do laundry that day but I still had some clean clothes left.

Monday came and went without the water ever being shut off. The plumbers never showed up and the hole in the back parking lot wasn’t filled in. When I checked out laundry rooms that evening, everyone and their mother was doing laundry again.

Tuesday came and went as I did some Christmas shopping before everyone and their mother could make Christmas shopping insane. (Having gone shopping with Filipino friends who dropped $5,000 USD on presents for their families at a very crowded Valley Fair Mall on Christmas Eve in 1999, I know how insane Christmas shopping can be that I don’t want to relive it.) I really didn’t have time to do laundry during the day. Since another 24-hour notice went up on the apartment doors, everyone and their mother was doing laundry again that evening.

The plumbers did show up on Wednesday and the water was eventually turned back on before 8:00PM. Another day of running errands and Christmas shopping. I was also looking for a Windows 7 certification book to improve my chances of getting a new job. I’ve been out of work for 20 months. Only recently had my financial situation improved enough that I could afford to get a certification book this month and take the exam next month. Silicon Valley companies are starting to migrate their computers from Windows XP to Windows 7 after having skipped Windows Vista in the last upgrade cycle. I’m hoping to ride the migration wave for the next few years. I went to Borders at Oakridge Mall but they didn’t have any certification books. This is the second time this month I had to go to the smaller Borders store at Santana Row to find the book I needed. The cashier’s eyes popped out when she rung up the book—retail price $70 USD—and applied the 50% off coupon that reduced the price to $35. I never buy an expensive technical book unless I really need to and have a 50% off coupon. Everyone and their mother was in the laundry rooms again. I had ran out of clean clothes the day before and planned to do laundry the next morning.

The water was turned off again on Thursday. A new notice was posted on the door that water would be turned off for most of the day. The clothes I’ve been wearing for two days was starting to make me itch and I wasn’t a happy camper. I could’ve gone to the laundromat to get my clothes washed but I didn’t feel like loading up the car and waiting several hours inside my car. I did a final round of Christmas shopping and some grocery shopping. I turned on the kitchen faucet when I got home, waited for the water to come gushing out, and rushed down to the laundry room when it did at 8:00PM. I was shocked to find that someone had pre-loadedtwo of the washing machines with soap and dirty laundry. I guess I wasn’t the only desperate person in the building who didn’t have a mother to help out with the laundry. I got two loads done that night. The next morning I was going to finish the other two loads.

Guess what? It’s Friday and the water is off. A new notice was on the door. I’m still itching even though I’m wearing clean clothes since I forgot to take a shower last night. I could have gone to the gym and taken a shower there. But because of my awesome manliness would make all the other guys at the gym feel insecure, I chose to grin and bear being without water for another day. The water did came back on at 2:45PM when I was almost done writing this blog post. As for tomorrow, who knows if the water or will be on or off. The only thing I know for certain is that everyone and their mother will be doing laundry again.

They Took The Radio Antenna But Not The Car

When I went out yesterday to run errands, I noticed immediately that there was something wrong with my car.  The radio antenna was gone, leaving behind the naked screw mount and rubber gasket.   Nothing else was missing.  The windows were intact.  The factory radio with the country music cassette tape stuck inside was still there.  All the empty plastic water bottles that would draw a small fortune for a homeless recyclable collector still on the floor behind the front seats.  Only the radio antenna was gone.

Without the antenna, my radio reception disappeared when ever I drove under a metal roof or concrete overpass, and become scratchy when driving under a power line.  Very annoying.  Unlike my Dad’s truck radio that gets two stations (country and talk), my car radio only gets one station (talk a la KGO Radio).  Silicon Valley haven’t had a decent country radio station since the venerableKEEN went off the air in 1992 because the land underneath that radio antenna was worth more than the radio station.  Picking up a new radio antenna was added to my list of errands.

I went to Fry’s Electronics and Best Buy but they didn’t have any simple screw-on radio antenna, which was surprising considering how much custom audio equipment they sell for cars.  When I worked at the Old Spaghetti Factory in downtown San Jose during the mid-1990’s, the assistant kitchen manager showed off his two 18-inch speakers, the power amp and a half-dozen car batteries that filled up the trunk of his 1975 muscle car.  That combination alone cost more than what the car was worth.  He cranked up at the volume of a Mexican mariachi band.  At the time I lived a mile away from the restaurant and I could still hear the music playing when I got home at 1:00AM.

I ended up getting a plain silver antenna at Kragen Auto Parts for $16.  My original antenna was similar to that but in black.  I wasn’t happy with the color or the price.  Antennas weren’t a designer item like everything else for cars these days.  I was more concern about the antenna mount being exposed to the elements that would lead to a corrosion problem with the trunk lid if I didn’t get a replacement antenna.  I got enough problems with the car without having that.

After attaching the new antenna, I took a close look at the parking stall next to my car.  No car has parked there for the last three years.  I found cigarette butts on the left and right sides of the stall.  For the past few months, I been finding empty beer bottles and take out trash around my car.  On a few weekend afternoons, I found a car load of teenage gang bangers hanging out and probably waiting for a friend who lived in Building M.  I filled out an incident report at the apartment complex office, and was reassured by the managers that security would keep an out for that empty parking stall at night.

Gang bangers been trying to get into the complex for a while now since nearby apartment complexes been overrun by rival gang bangers.  I often see them driving by in their 1970’s era cars—cool gang bangers drive souped up Honda Civics—in front of the complex, flashing their gang signs to people who don’t care about them.  The complex management has maintained high standards for people moving in, cleans up the gang graffiti the day after it appears, and run out trouble tenants when they become a nuisance.  There’s an informal neighborhood watch since everyone watches what’s going on from their balconies and from inside the buildings.

A few hours later, while making a cell phone call from my balcony, I noticed a car load of teenage gang bangers pulling into the parking stall next to my car.  One of them even got out to buy ice cream from a passing vendor.  I couldn’t believe my luck.  After getting the license plate number and description of the car, I went down to the office.  One of the managers called the security company and the other manager ran off the gang bangers with a stern lecture.

Did these gang bangers steal my car antenna?  Maybe, maybe not.  However, since they had all four doors opened wide with cigarettes in hand, they probably did leave behind the butts in the stall the last time they were here.