2010 September minutiae

  • Truth in advertising: the Republican candidate in CA-11 is named Harmer.

  • Errors that I am astonished, and kind of depressed, to have seen more than once: "wha-la" for "voilà"; "defiantly" for "definitely."

  • So after 58 months in San Leandro, I finally, finally got around to moving. Some of this was due to a sudden influx of screenwriting income that allowed me to expand the range of apartments I could look at... but rent hadn't really been the main obstacle to moving, exactly. The main problem was that I wanted to move to Berkeley, and I wanted to move somewhere that had been built or at least renovated within my lifetime, and that turns out not to be a very common combination. Berkeley's housing stock is pretty ancient. They call it "vintage charm" but it really means "built in 1915 and not appreciably changed since then, except for the stove that was replaced in 1970." Now, there are exceptions. A building called the New Californian went up recently that I was really hoping I might be able to get into. But, uh, no. Entry-level 1br: $1750/month. Urk.

    The breakthrough came when I was poking around on Padmapper and saw some promising listings in Albany, a little town that had been the northwest corner of Berkeley before seceding in 1908. It's basically just like North Berkeley, only it's got its own school district (and a much more highly regarded one than Berkeley's) so families with children flock here. Houses are small but, for the Bay Area, relatively reasonable in price. Here I wound up renting not a room squirreled away in a vast apartment complex, but the front half of a duplex that had recently been redone. It's a few steps away from Solano Avenue, meaning that instead of having to drive twenty miles when I feel like getting something to eat, I can just walk a few blocks to Gordo Taqueria, or Nizza La Bella, or Meal Ticket, or The Hot Shop, or La Farine, or even Zachary's Pizza. That's a new thing for me; before moving here, my previous residences were:

    where I lived where I went for food and entertainment
    2005-2010 a lower-middle-class suburb without much to walk to drove 20 miles to Berkeley
    2002-2005 the one lower-middle-class development in a slum drove 20 miles to Northampton/Hadley/Amherst
    2001-2002 a lower-middle-class neighborhood in a megalopolis trudged 20 blocks to the subway and then took a train to various other parts of New York City
    1999-2001 an affluent exurb out in the mountains drove 10 miles to Bellevue or 20 miles to Seattle
    1997-1999 the affluent exurb where I grew up drove 10 miles to Tustin or 20 miles to Costa Mesa

    ...and before that I was still in school. So, yeah, other than my year in Brooklyn, I've spent pretty much my entire adult life starting every excursion with a half-hour drive. I figured it might be an interesting change of pace to try living in town, where "town" doesn't equal "giant city that is actively trying to kill me."

  • One of the things that most impressed me when I saw my current dwelling was that the kitchen, while compact, was gorgeous, with beautiful black slab counters, a blond hardwood floor, and an astounding array of maple cabinets of all shapes and sizes with various different types of doors. It looked like the entire kitchen had been designed by a cabinet maker who wanted to show off. Anyway, after moving in, I was going over a few last things with my landlord, and he gave me his card. Which was emblazoned with the logo of his cabinet-making shop.

  • One thing that came as something of a surprise, given that my old place was a studio apartment and the new one is a 1br, is that the new place is actually a fair bit smaller than the old one. I'd thought that I would put the bed and computer table in the bedroom and turn the front room into a living room fit for guests, but it turned out that the bedroom was way too small for that. So I'm still basically in a studio apartment: the bed is 27 inches from the front door. And this room is totally not designed for sleeping. I had to buy several packages of blackout curtains to save myself from the predations of the horrible daystar.

  • Next I wanted my bedding to match the curtains so I went shopping. Sign of the times: the packaging for mattress pads now tends to boast about how effective the pads are against bedbugs.

  • I wanted to see what sorts of bedding people online recommended, so I did a Google search on "best comforter." The result:

    A solemn air and the best comforter
    To an unsettled fancy cure thy brains,
    Now useless, boil'd within thy skull! There stand,
    For you are spell-stopp'd.

  • At Ikea I found a display of comforter covers that were so amazingly soft that I snapped one up. I brought it home, opened the package, and discovered that its texture was nothing special. Only then did it occur to me that the softness of the sample was probably just a product of being fondled by hundreds of people every day for several months.

  • I also hopped online and got one of those gigantic Commando 5000 shower heads like the ones on Seinfeld. Fun fact: French for "shower head" is "pomme de douche."

  • The shower in my old bathroom had a window in it, and as I mentioned in my minutiae a time or two, it did wonders for my mental health to be able to see a blue sky while I was taking a shower. My new shower has no window. The bathroom does, but not the shower. The old shower also had a sliding door, while the new one requires a curtain. When I went shopping for a shower curtain, I saw that some of them were clear, and I thought that maybe I could spare myself some depression by at least having a way to let some light in. To my surprise, though, the curtain wasn't translucent — it was actually clear, like a sandwich bag. That meant that I could actually look out the bathroom window from the shower and see blue sky!

    The problem was that my old shower window was above eye level on the second floor. The new bathroom window is fairly tall and at ground level. I could see out into the street from the shower, but that also meant that people out in the street could see inside. Which doesn't really bother me — I think the clothing compulsion is a pretty stupid cultural hangup — but I figured the neighbors might have different opinions. I needed something moisture-resistant that could be wedged into the bottom of the window, so I could see the sky but people at ground level couldn't see in. Suddenly I realized: I had just bought a couple of cutting boards from Ikea for $1 apiece. I tried one and it fit perfectly. Problem solved.

  • I did a lot of such repurposing while setting up the new apartment. My drum kit didn't fit in the apartment as a complete set, so I scattered the various pieces into different alcoves and corners. Then I realized that I needed a nightstand. After browsing furniture shops online, I was struck by an idea. I put a 16" mute over my floor tom, dragged it over to the side of the bed, and readjusted the heights of the legs. Bam, nightstand.

  • I also disassembled my desk so I could use the pieces in different areas of the apartment. I had a 24" quarter-circle of tempered glass left over, so I got some off-the-rack pelican brackets and mounted it in the corner as a floating shelf. And if you know anything about me, you know that the notion that I would ever end up typing anything like the preceding sentence is kind of hilarious. Nevertheless, it's held up my Berkeley lamp for a month. MAN USES TOOLS!

  • But possibly my proudest moment all month was when I altered a pair of pants I'd purchased from a 32 waist down to a 31 using nothing but a screwdriver and an X-Acto knife.

  • There was a blackout here one night. Fortunately, I had paid an extra month's rent on the San Leandro apartment so that I could move my stuff at a leisurely place, and was thus able to ferry my ice cream to safety twenty miles away.

  • Evan McMorris-Santoro, talkingpointsmemo.com: Polls have not bared that theory out so far

  • I got a memo from work warning against "Failure to use Internet Explorer." I would call that "Success in not using Internet Explorer."

  • Pretty sure I saw a guy in Sonoma walking an eohippus.

  • Looking at a table of extended ASCII characters such as ░ and ╠ brought back the memory of working on my first computer so powerfully that it was close to an all-senses hallucination: I could see the glowing green phosphors on the monochrome screen, smell the oiled rosewood and newly opened IBM manuals of the room where we kept the PC... it was almost scarily transportive.

  • I'll say this for the barter system: tell me that you'll pay me $200 to come teach a class and I can take it or leave it, but tell me that you'll pay for four months of broadband service and suddenly it sounds like a great deal!

  • So far I'm not really a fan of the new Killola album, but I couldn't help but admire the audacity of this couplet:

    You wish you was her
    You wanna does her

    I think what gets me about it is that there are two reasons to select "do" over "does" — neither "you does" nor "want to does" works — and yet Lisa goes with "does" in order to rhyme with "was," which is also wrong. Delightful!

  • I watched an interview with Bill Clinton and noticed that he was wearing a wristwatch. Clearly he is a relic of a bygone age.

  • Does it annoy anyone else that Facebook gets the direction of the word "via" backwards? "Crango via Ditko" should mean that Ditko is relaying information originally posted by Crango. On Facebook it's the other way around. Stupid, stupid Facebook.

  • Terror: "When I scroll this window, that dead pixel doesn't move!"
    Relief: "Oh, when I move the window it does."

  • My alma mater, UC Berkeley, recently announced that it would no longer be fielding teams in several sports, including baseball, and that it was demoting its rugby team (which has won the championship in 25 of the last 31 years) to club status. Some are distraught, but I've long been of the opinion that the University of California system, rather than offer up nine undergraduate institutions whose missions largely overlap, should consider itself a single university with a number of specialized campuses. The sports teams should represent the entire UC system, and should probably be based out of Los Angeles. Let Berkeley concentrate on academics.

  • I've noticed that, with 2010 here and most people calling it "twenty ten," I'm starting to hear the "twenty" applied more to years gone by — i.e., I've heard "twenty oh nine" a lot more in 2010 than I did in 2009. I've been using the "twenty oh" terminology since hearing Christine Palmer refer to 2006 as "twenty oh six" back in 2006, but I never expected it to catch on. But now I wouldn't be surprised if before too long we start to hear people saying that the 9/11 attacks occurred in twenty oh one.

  • espn.go.com: Ochocinco cereal off shelves due to sex number. It turns out that, due to a misprint, the phone number printed on the box connects not to the charity Feed the Children but rather to a phone sex line. But when I read that headline I instantly assumed that (a) the cereal was made up of edible numerals, like a mathematical version of Alpha-Bits, and (b) someone had freaked out after spotting a 69 somewhere in the bowl pictured on the box.

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