Comcast Service (Or, Lack Thereof)

While waiting for a friend to show up to go see a movie, I heard the familiar rap-a-tap knocking and opened the door without looking through the peephole. A Comcast representative stood on the other side to tell me about the new re-wiring for high-speed service being done throughout the apartment complex, asking me why I haven’t signed up for their wonderful service. I restrained myself from giving an honest answer. I astonished him when I said I didn’t watch TV and closed the door on his face.

My problem with Comcast is that I’m required to go down to the local office to prove that I wasn’t the previous resident who skipped payment. After I first moved into my studio apartment three years ago, I spent an hour arguing with a service rep in India on why Comcast treats their customers so differently than the utility companies do. When I called for phone and electric services, I didn’t have to go local office to prove who I was (or wasn’t). I guess the utility companies don’t have thieves for customers.

As for watching TV, I haven’t done that in over 15 years. What little TV I do watch is available online via Amazon Unbox, Apple iTunes and Netflix.  That’s cheaper than a monthly cable bill for 500+ channels that I don’t have time to watch.

Artistic Clutter

When I took the week off between Christmas and New Year’s, I expected to use the free time to go on a creative binge of writing, painting, drawing, and perhaps some programming. That didn’t happen.

Christmas shopping—better late than never—took up a whole day. My father spent three days snoring away on my green chair when we weren’t visiting family for Christmas Eve in Gilroy and Christmas Day in Morgan Hill. My six-month-old great-nephew made off like a bandit when he got 40+ Christmas presents that took three hours to unwrap, overwhelming his parents by the generosity of family and friends that they might need to get a bigger house. A somewhat gloomy Christmas as most of my family are out of work and concern about losing their homes because of the subprime mess.

My friend and I saw “Sweeney Todd” and “Alien Vs. Predator Requiem” at the theater, and we went shopping for a new hard drive to install into his system. I went to the DMV to take my driving test to get my driver’s license for the first time, as my father abandoned his old car in my car port as a birthday present this past summer that forced me to take ownership. When most of the week came and went, I had to face the consequences of being a very creative person this past year.

My studio apartment got filled with clutter. Not just ordinary clutter, but artistic clutter.

  • When you’re a writer, you need a place for your manual typewriter, laptop, laser printer, and the creative output of drafts, revisions and rejection slips.
  • When you paint or draw, you need a place for your brushes, paints, pens, and the creative output of canvases, panels, tablets and sheets.
  • When you’re a programmer, you need a place to stack all those door-stoppers—heavy programming books—that you buy on impulse and may someday read.
  • When you take several semesters of ceramics, you bring home lots of small pieces and several big pieces weighing 25 pounds each, bags of leftover clay, and a clay-crusted toolbox.

I spent New Year’s Day going through the clutter scattered throughout my apartment. I got a four-drawer commercial filing cabinet to toss the paperwork into, re-arranged my desk, table and computers into a more functional arrangement, and cleared out space in my closet to store paper and canvases. Straighten out my shelves so I can store the small ceramics with the books, and cleared some floor space for the larger ceramic pieces. All my painting supplies went on the top of the shelves. Everything else that I didn’t need got tossed out into the recycling dumpster. I went from artistic clutter to organized clutter. It’ll probably take me the rest of the year to reduce the organized clutter into something less than clutter.

A Fine Mess

Maybe it was a good thing that I worked from home last Friday. The changeover for Daylight Savings Time had messed me up that I woke up late and missed my morning commute. Working from home is usually a peaceful time to get housework done and run errands between help desk tickets. Unless the maintenance crew was working in a nearby apartment, which sometimes sounds like a persistent woodpecker pecking away at something or somebody screams bloody murder in a screeching voice.

This past Friday was different.

The predominant sound was a dental drill from upstairs, and later, after I signed off from work on the computer, running water from my kitchen. A fountain of water squirted out of the kitchen sink drain. I had enough time to lay down bath towels to contain the two-inch deep water that flooded my kitchen floor in five minutes. If I had gone into work and came home as I normally do, the carpets in the entryway would be ruined.

I called the office to tell them that my kitchen got flooded. By the time a maintenance guy showed up with a shop vac, the water had drained underneath the cabinets. Half the floor got vacuumed up before the plumber came by to say that she needed the shop vac in upstairs apartment. That’s the last time I saw either of them. I spent a couple of hours cleaning up the sewer sludge that covered my dirty dishes in the sink, the counter top, a dozen kitchen towels in a drawer, and the towels on the floor. I wasn’t too happy that my apartment smelled like an open sewer for the weekend.

With my allergies declaring war on me and the problems with the apartment, I didn’t go into work on Monday. I wrote a detailed letter explaining the situation to the leasing manager and included three pictures. The first picture showed my kitchen floor being flooded, the second showed the boards underneath the kitchen sink warping from the water damage, and the third picture was taken less than six months ago when the painters upstairs spilled a bucket of white paint on my patio chair and balcony. Since I lived on the second floor of a three-story building, most of my problems come up from below or down from above. I got a phone call from the leasing manager that everything will get fixed.

The carpet cleaner came by to inspect the damage before scheduling a cleaning. There wasn’t much damage to the carpets since my bath towels stopped the water. The carpet cleaner did a general cleaning and deodorizing of the entryway the next day.

The maintenance supervisor came over to do the work underneath the kitchen sink.

“So I heard you had a leak,” he said.

“Oh, no,” I replied. “I had a flood.”

He didn’t believe me until he looked underneath the kitchen sink. The waterlogged board was four times the normal thickness and the drywall where the board met was wet. He removed the damaged board and support beam to let the drywall dry out overnight. I came home from work the next day to find the board and support beam replaced and painted. So instead of my apartment smelling ever so slightly like an open sewer, it now smells ever so slightly of drying paint and damp carpets.

A Power Outage Without The Heat

After my Thursday night finite class, I stayed late to study for my Unix Administration II class since I had a midterm on Monday (yesterday). Creating a backup script using the tar command to excluding specific files from being compressed into an archive was a bit tricky to put together. It’s amazing how the clock can say 11:00PM one moment and 1:00AM the next moment. I got up late enough to miss my Friday morning commute that I had to work from home.

At midmorning I heard a familiar “ka-POP!” sound from somewhere outside the apartment complex, the lights dimmed and overall power significantly reduced. Unlike the last time something like this happened, the fish tank filter pump didn’t gurgle, the UPSes weren’t beeping their alarms, and it wasn’t hot as heck that morning. Had enough power to keep the low power stuff running without trouble, including my laptop and new DSL modem. I continued working until full power came back on a few hours later.

What The Painters Didn’t Clean Up

After my balcony got splattered by a paint spill that dribble down from the balcony upstairs, the painters had to clean up the mess, repaint my balcony and buy me a new patio chair a few weeks ago. Working from home the other day, the superintendent stopped by to test the smoke detector, and we had a rather interesting conversation.

“Did the painters—”


“—clean up the mess?”


“They didn’t?”


A quick phone call got the head painter committed to coming over at noon. The smoke detector worked fine and superintendent left. The painter showed up at 2:30PM just as I was getting ready to go somewhere. He paid me $10 USD for the patio chair and painted over the floor of the balcony in ten minutes without leaving a paint ring or paint foot prints inside my apartment. As for the paint splattered chair, I’m keeping it just in case my balcony gets splattered again. Who to say that spilt paint won’t strike the same spot twice?

Paint Splatters From Above

While working from home, I thought someone got hacked to death upstairs and strangled to death next door at the same time. Not quite. With the surrounding apartments empty (probably due to the large rent increase last month that’s forcing people to move), the work crews were getting the apartments ready. Not a big deal — until I saw my balcony.

I wasn’t sure if it got splattered by paint or a very large pigeon. I called the leasing office. The superintendent came out to look, confirmed that it was paint, and the painter came by to admit that a five-gallon paint bucket tipped over on the upstairs balcony to dribble down on my balcony the day before.

The Three Stooges got for the paint jobs. I found a paint ring on the floor inside the elevator and a paint foot print on the sidewalk outside. My balcony wasn’t cleaned up and re-painted after the superintendent promised to buy me a new outdoor chair. I’m still waiting for that to happen, but I’m not sure if I want these painters inside my apartment. I just might take $10 USD off the rent next month for the chair and leave it at that.

The Firemouth Laid Eggs

I got a small firemouth cichlid for my 25-gallon fish tank a year ago that is now 4.5-inches long, being my first large fish that I ever owned. Unlike guppies and other livebearers that have obvious differences between the sexes, I was never certain as to what sex the firemouth was. Over the last several weeks, I kept thinking the firemouth might be a female. I noticed last night that “she” was spending more time in the large cave than the small cave—busted in half clay pots buried in the gravel—while chasing off the other fishes a little too maternally.

Using a flashlight to peer inside the large cave, I found rows of eggs planted on the underside. Won’t see any fry without a male firemouth to fertilize the eggs. The pleco ate most of the eggs this morning. The rest is turning white from a fungus that kills unfertilized eggs. I’m amazed to see this happen, but I’m also saddened that the eggs were a wasted effort and the female firemouth won’t get any larger.

The Lazy Dog Days of August

Saw “Pulse” at the Camera 12. A surprisingly good movie of a ghostly computer virus that takes away a person’s will to live and traps them into committing suicide over the Internet. As the movie demonstrates, we are surprisingly well-connected to each other by our electronic devices and would be vulnerable if such a disaster was to happen. I missed seeing the original Japanese version by the same name when it played at the Camera 12 earlier this year. Now I can’t find the DVD in local stores since the American version came out in the theaters.

After I got back from my brother’s birthday party in Morgan Hill on Sunday evening, I noticed smoke pouring out of a kitchen air vent on the apartment building across the way from my own. The smoke alternated in color: white smoke for five minutes, black smoke for five minutes, and white smoke for another five minutes. Almost as if a new pope got elected at the Vatican. All the neighbors were rubbernecking from their balconies as they pointed at the commotion without doing anything about it.

One of those moments where you debate calling 911, see if someone else calls 911, or do nothing and hope for the best. The fire department sent three trucks from the station down the street. One firefighter inspected the roof. The fire trucks went away without the building burning to the ground. The warped hood and air vent got tossed out on the sidewalk a few days later, as repairs were made inside the apartment. Looks like serious grease fire that caused that much damage.

The lazy dog days of summer is coming to a close.

An IKEA Apartment

My father and I went out to IKEA in East Palo Alto to pick up a coffee table for my TV and video game consoles, and three tall bookshelves that match the one that I already have. I spent the past weekend putting everything together to transform my modest studio apartment into something much more respectable.

The coffee table was the easiest to put together, replacing an empty green tub turned upside down and green crates from my first tour through college. The TV, DVD player and video switcher went on top. The PlayStation One and GameCube consoles, and the DVDs in the black nylon cases, went on the shelf. The video games and DVD box sets went into a pair of clear containers that I got from The Container Store to keep everything organized and dust free.

Putting together the shelving units were more involved as each one got built and put aside. I managed to mess up on one unit by having the inside shelf holes facing out, not realizing my mistake until I tried to put the shelves in, and took it apart to start over again. A strap connects the top of the shelf to the wall. The funny part about that was the manual diagram showing two screws, but only one screw was in the package. I nailed the straps to the shelves and screwed the other end into the wall.

After moving 300+ books out of the away, the old particle board shelf got hauled out to the recycling bin outside. All the tall shelves went against the wall next to my bed.. I relocated the short shelf next to the kitchen table to put the phone equipment and computer books on top. The books went back on the shelves in a semi-organized fashion to form a new library.