Atta Ikede

November 21, 2008

Canada, meet California

Filed under: San Francisco, Uncategorized — attaikede @ 7:58 pm

I’ve finally found it.

I’ve had an undeniable feeling of misfit-ness here ever since I moved. It’s been something I wanted to describe and have probably discussed to some extent earlier, but I haven’t been satisfied with any of my previous discussions on this topic. I couldn’t find the words to quite express the problem because it’s a feeling that only comes up when I talk to a certain subset of Californians.

But now I’ve found this: This blog/club here very obviously is and could only be a brainchild of members of this community. “Yes. we’re so rich, we take the time to care about the world and make the right choices. We know we’re rich because we constantly keep in mind the masses of humanity living on $2 a day. Gosh darn-it we’re just so priveleged!

I have only admiration for those who believe in sustainability and living-green, but you have to agree there’s something about the glossy apple logo and the “APLS” acronym that makes you go “wtf .. is this for real?” If you are like me, you may have also rolled your eyes and laughed. Out loud. lol.

Here’s another one. Reusable hand made sanitary napkins for girls in Africa. Again, on one hand, and especially seeing as I’m a woman, I admire the drive and desire that somebody took in getting this program together. But then, when I read the details of the scheme, I can’t help but have a mild feeling of disbelief. Yes, let’s give a bunch of girls in Africa reusable pads and force them to have waste water and time washing those disgusting thing, because giving them disposable tampons is bad for the environment. Again. wtf? I wonder, do the people who run the reusable pads website use their own products? I doubt it! It’s just another example of some do-gooder in the west deciding on the appropriate solution for poor people in developing countries. They’re just the modern version of 1500s hardcore missionaries except instead of peddling religion they’re peddling their environmentalism. I would suspect that average poor African to whom this program is directed is probably more worried about economic issues than environmental ones and rightly so!!

Anyway, there you go. These examples are pretty typical slices of the kind of mentality espoused here by a certain subset of Californians. Now imagine running into the “make your own tampon” or “apls” people in real life and you’ll get a sense of what some of my social situations are like. And I work in software! hahaha. Thank god for nerds.

I wonder what it’s like in Berkeley …

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November 20, 2008

Pregnant lady

Filed under: San Francisco, Uncategorized — attaikede @ 8:03 am

There’s a young pregnant lady I see sometimes around my neighbourhood here. She looks like she’s from south east asia – maybe vietnamese? – and she’s probably in her mid-late 20s.

The first time I saw her was at a nail salon down the street here. One day last month I went to that place to get bright red toe polish. Haha. It was really sunny out, and I was wearing sandals, and I just had this urge!! Anyway, the pregnant lady was there heavily chastising a little girl, who I think was the owner’s daughter, to the point that the little girl was crying! I think it was some kind of dispute over school work – perhaps the kid was playing too many video games and not spending enough time on math – because the pregnant woman kept waving a notebook around. The kid’s mom seemed to be on the pregnant lady’s side, but pretty much stayed out of the matter. I felt pretty awkward, because I was there waiting for the polish to dry, and there was another customer in the room too! I left as soon as possible.

I saw that pregnant lady again last weekend, but this time, she was wearing a brown uniform and was walking around with a guy who was also wearing the same uniform! I think she must have a second job as a security guard or something and she was out for lunch with her coworker.

Amazing! This woman is enormously pregnant, works two jobs and still has time to look after that kid’s homework. I get tired just by working my one day job where I mainly sit in chairs all day *_*.

It is perhaps equally amazing that I’ve made conclusions on this woman’s life story here after just seeing her 2 times and not even exchanging one word with her…

November 18, 2008

Correction

Filed under: Uncategorized — attaikede @ 9:08 am

In the previous post I was talking about 30 years.

In reality, it’s more like 40 years because i’m 26. Working 30 more years would only take me to around 55, which is considered “early retirement”.

Thirty years. I need answers!

Filed under: Uncategorized — attaikede @ 9:06 am

With this job here, sometimes I get behind and do a bit of work in the morning (instead of spending that time blogging :) and other times I do a few things on the weekend, and sometimes I do have extremely stressful, long days, but these are normal, expected issues with software jobs because everything is project oriented and you get tons of stress around delivery dates. Overall though, work here is a rather pleasant affair.

That being said, I still have the same underlying feeling that I don’t think I can do a 9-5 job like this for 30 years. Sure, maybe within that time, if Im successful, i’ll be able to rise beyond the cubicle and into a corner office, and maybe my salary would triple, but still. Is that enough to take the edge off? Even in a pretty good work environment like the one I have here, there’s still a lot of strategic communication. LIke hmm, this person is in marketing. Maybe I should leave out the dates in this email so he doesn’t make up a release date from it. Ok, this person is an engineer who is cranky and gets very picky about adjectives. I better be really careful about every word in my email. Ok, I’m meeting with biz dev. I better get to the point in 10 mins cuz otherwise people start getting antsy. All this angling – is this really the best way I can use my brain power? You know how the synapses you use get strengthened and the other ones die out. So all my politics playing synapses are getting strengthened and the other ones will be relatively weaker. Yuck! The thought disgusts me.

Many people my age have exactly this same problem. They freak out when they think about the 30 years issue. One of my friends here was freaking out about this yesterday. Haha. He had a bad case of the Monday blues.

But i’m amazed by how so many other people my age do NOT have this problem. Like there are lots of people who are happily doing their job, living their perfect little life. And they’re totally ok with things! If you admit your feelings about the 30 years problem to them, they’ll laugh awkwardly and back away. Yess…. They have no clue what you are talking about.

What does this mean? Are there some people who are inherently satisfied with things and don’t look around for other things? Is there some crack pipe of happiness that these people use every morning?? What’s the secret?

And is that even happiness? I’m happy. Maybe what they’re smoking is complacence.

Are there others who are chronically unsatisfied? And are there some that are addicted to change? Maybe I’m only dissatisfied with the idea of a 30 year 9-5 career because that’s the path i’m walking now, and if i was living in a tree i’d be dissatisfied with doing that for 30 years too.

And what about materialism? Having things costs money, and that means you have to earn money, or go into debt and declare bankruptcy later. Even if you stop buying things, you still need to save for retirement. But what if there was no retirement? Maybe I could just get a job raking leaves and keep doing that until I expire.

Sigh. I dont know. Time for work. And I just missed the express bus so I’ll have to go on the regular one.

November 14, 2008

New Pages

Filed under: Uncategorized — attaikede @ 8:40 am

Hey guys,

I put up two new pages on the right –> Bento craze and cooking escapades.  It’s 8.23 am here so I have finish getting ready for work, but I wanted to throw those pages up so I can start filling them. Those pages are going to be for photos only, maybe with just a few remarks. Those pages are mainly for my dad, cuz he’s always asking me whether i’m eating properly. I didn’t want to clutter the main blog page with so much food-heavy commentary so I thought I’d move it off to the side. If I ever put anything of critical interest there I’ll just link to it from something on the main blog.

Also, thanks for the comments!! Blogging without comments is no fun at all. I love the pseudonyms in the comments too – seeing a note from “cat” really made me laugh :)

By the way, did you know I write in the mornings? Yup. Most of my blog entries are written in the morning before work, with my coffee mug on my left and my Telus flower mouse on my right. I find i’m not so creative or patient in the evenings. Creative because it takes effort to come up with something to write about .. patient because each post is heavily edited before it gets posted! For example, it’s already 8:38 and i’m still here. Yes. I just spent 20 minutes editing this silly post!

– Atta Ikede (oops, almost signed my real name! :)

A lesson in manners at USPS

Filed under: Uncategorized — attaikede @ 7:37 am

USPS = United States Postal Service. It’s like Canada Post.

I have stamps to send letters and postcards to Canada, but when I have to send packages I have to go into the postal office and fill out a customs form there, and the postal worker has to weigh the package and add the weight to the customs form as well.

My Canada Post experience was limited to downtown Toronto branches, so I guess it’s possible that service is better elsewhere, but in my opinion, Canada Post hires the slowest workers possible and only puts one employee at each branch! Going to the Canada Post office can take up an entire lunch hour, a fact which caused me lineup-rage ( a form of roadrage that strikes in lineups rather then on the road) multiple times.

USPS is much better. I’ve been to a few branches in the city now and each one has a couple of employees, and they at least try to manage the line. All form filling has to be done in advance or off to the side so the employees can serve customers who are waiting. It’s still slow, but at least people are moving. I’ve probably been there 6 times now and only had lineup-rage once.

Anyway, getting back to the point here: I was filling out my customs forms at the USPS yesterday and overheard the following lesson in manners and enjoyed its surprisingly rude delivery.

Clerk: That’ll be $1.xx (note: it was less than $2 but I don’t remember the exact amount)

Woman: <hands over a $20>

Clerk: Oh, you don’t have a smaller bill? <starts making change for the $20>

Woman: <in a quite serious tone> I gave you a 20. A 20 dollar bill is not a large bill.

Clerk: <protesting,kind of lighthearted tone> But it was for me right now!

Woman: <serious> Well it is not a large bill. It is a small bill. Don’t tell me it was a large bill.

Clerk: <puts the change out> Ok thank you, goodbye

Woman: <serious> Now why did you put all the change on the counter and make me pick up all these coins? I have to pick them up one by one.

Clerk: To make it easy for you to see the change and count that it’s right. It’s more flat here.

Woman: <serious> I can count change! I can count the change in my hand! I don’t need a flat area. I can do it in my hand. I gave you the money in your hand and you should have given it back to me in my hand. It’s very rude to make me pick up coins from the counter. It’s very rude!

Clerk: <speechless>

Woman: <walks away>

Interestingly, cashiers here usually do count change out. LIke if you hand over a $20 at shoppers, they tell you the change amount and dump it all in your hand. Chances are it’s all coins too, even if the change exceeded $5, because the cashier can give you toonies and loonies to weigh you down!

Here, in a typical store, they’ll count it the cash bills first and then give you the coins. I think the counting happens here because unlike Canada, where there’s so much coin change that people lost the will to count it, we have dollar bills in the US. Practically all change amounts require bills in the transaction, so people are still used to counting it out.

November 9, 2008

Slowing Down

Filed under: Uncategorized — attaikede @ 3:53 pm

There’s a hallway separating my bedroom from the living area. Although my whole apartment here is painted beige, this hallway seems particularly beige because there’s no furniture or decor to break up the monotony except for 4 doors, all of which are also painted beige.

So I strung up 2 strings on the longest and non-door interrupted wall and cut out a bunch of manga comic strips from a used comic book I’d purchased for 100 Yen (1 dollar) outside of Shinjuku station. I hung these comic cutouts using colourful ribbon, resulting in a fun look that definitely brightened things up.

Since then, I’ve been adding post cards to the strings too. I’m lucky to have a few friends that religiously send me post cards. Earlier this afternoon, I was adding a few recent arrivals to the small collection on the wall, when I had a brain wave – I have a box full of momentos like photos and letters. I brought it with me when I moved here. I bet I’ve kept some older post cards in there! I should pull those out and add them to my wall!

I just spent the last hour going through the stuff in that box. It’s funny what a box full of papers and photos can do to a person. Geez, I feel downright emotional!

You know, when I first moved here, I really embraced my status of being new in town. I chatted with strangers, went out and did touristy things on my own, joined the soccer team, went to a couple of newcomer meetups, made some friends, etc. Since then, that outgoing-ness has slowed down quite a bit. I’m back to my slightly-introverted behaviours.

Overall, I’m quite happy and satisfied; however once in a while I have these sudden realizations that I don’t have very many close friends here. Sometimes I miss my buddies and my family. The last time I really had these feelings was around my birthday. I really missed my university friends, who lived with me and know every crazy thing about me, and my highschool friends, who have known me for so many years they know secrets like how Sabina used to pull my hair on the bus in Grade 4. lol. And I missed the wonderful friends who I’ve picked up along the way in life, like friends from previous jobs and friends I met when I was taking different classes. Other times I really miss my family, like yesterday afternoon, it was drizzling out and so i started poking around on youtube and ended up watching a hindi movie. It would have been great to watch that with my parents!

Sometimes when those feelings set in, it kinda bothers me that I haven’t been able to cultivate those kinds of relationships here. Why don’t I have any buddies here yet? Sure, I have friends, but no buddies per se. When I have something I really want to discuss, I still find myself dialing the 416 or 519 area code. Should I be socializing more? Should I smile more? What is the recipe for making new relationships ???

I think that after going through these momentos here, I realize that perhaps this is not so bad. Fact is, I already have a community of people who care for me. That’s why I’ve kept all these things – old birthday cards my dad made, post cards and letters from friends half way around the world, goodbye cards from old jobs, little notes with inside jokes that I don’t even get anymore (something about a pink jumper?) – they’re all reminders that I already have buddies.

Making friends takes time, especially for slightly-introverted people like me. It took me years to create the relationships that I have now. It’s hard to expect that I’ll have equally meaningful new ones in a matter of months.

That being said, perhaps I’ve slowed down a little too much. Time, distance and similarity are important factors – there’s only so much closeness a relationship can have when one party is 3 time zones away and has a totally different kind of job and lifestyle. That box of memontos certainly contained a few from people who are no longer in my life.

I guess my first conclusion from all this is that I’m going to try to keep up with a moderate level of social activity here. That would probably be best. I don’t really know the recipe for relationships, but I do know that nobody wants to talk to somebody that doesn’t talk to them. My second conclusion is that I’m going to do my very best to stay close to the people who matter to me back home. I don’t want us to drift apart…and we won’t! At least not because of anything I could do.

November 4, 2008

My Plant

Filed under: Uncategorized — attaikede @ 9:56 pm

My friend who wishes her name was Cat was wondering about my plant. Here you go!

Plant

Plant

Plant in Action

Plant in Action

I think this is supposed to be a flowering plant but so far it hasn’t flowered :(

It has grown though! The red walgreens squirt bottle is placed handily hear by so that I can squirt the dish full of water when it gets dry. I usually open the blinds in the window over my bed before I go to work so that the plant will get sunlight. I haven’t added any fertilizer yet, but i’ve only had it for about 6 months and it’s still growing fresh leaves so I guess it’s reasonably healthy.

Election Day in San Francisco

Filed under: Uncategorized — attaikede @ 9:45 pm

The most delicious thing about election day is the free ice cream. Thank you Ben and Jerry’s! The following photo documents the free scoops that my friend and I enjoyed.

Election Day Free Ice Cream

Election Day Free Ice Cream

Polls just closed here about an hour ago or so. I guess Obama hasn’t officially won yet nationally, but it’s clear he’s going to win, and people appear to be excited about it. My neighbourhood is relatively quiet tonight, but even I can hear the occasional car full of cheering and honking going by. My bus home went through some of the more fun parts of town, like the mission and the border on the castro, and people were already going crazy there at 8 pm. Dancing in the streets, women banging on pots, gangs of strangers cheering and screaming “OBAMA!!!!”, to which the appropriate response seems to be “WOOOOOOO!!!”.

The truly interesting thing for California and for SF specifically is going to be the vote on so called Proposition 8. The presidential election is obviously important, but regardless of who wins, it’s not a decision that is going to affect individual people in their homes. Sure, taxes might go up or down, there may be more or fewer wars, but who the president is doesn’t affect personal decisions about lifestyle. Proposition 8 is different.

Proposition 8 is something that if passed, would redefine marriage in california to specifically be between a man and a woman. Religious/conservative people are pushing for a yes vote. Liberal/tolerant type people are pushing for a no vote. You’d think hey, this is california… the first place to elect openly gay politicians! One of the two states were same sex marriage is legal! There’s no way such a grandma moses type of thing would pass! Well you’d be wrong. Proposition 8 could go either way. It’s really, really, really tight.

I think part of the problem is that the Yes side (the conservative/religious side who wants to redefine the definition of marriage) is extremely organized and well funded. Apparently, out of state Mormons have really been pouring money to the Yes side. The No side? They seem kind of disorganized. Things picked up steam towards the end, with volunteers canvassing the streets passing pamphlets about the No side, and people waving signs at intersections, but that all popped up today. Where were these people yesterday, or last week, or last month?

What’s going to happen if the Yes side wins? Will same sex couples who got married become unmarried? Do they become cohabitational couples? And what does it say about California, that one of the supposed progressive states actually ended up having religious forces bring these intolerant measures to the table and have them turned into law? Is this going to embolden the religious forces and encourage them to bring other intolerant measures to the fore? Sigh. It’s a slippery slope! I really hope the No side wins. Otherwise, i just think it sends the wrong message and puts a bad precedent in place.

“vote no on proposition 8!”

A couple of other propositions on the Californian ballot are also interesting:
Proposition 1 – high speed rail network
Proposition 2 – Animal rights – makes it illegal to use cages that don’t leave an animal room to move around

I guess tomorrow holds the answers. Ah… can’t wait!

November 3, 2008

Lunch packing lessons learned!

Filed under: Uncategorized — attaikede @ 9:00 pm

Ok .. so maybe some of these lessons should have been obvious, but they weren’t!

1. I must eat the lunch as soon as it is removed from the fridge. Leaving a half eaten lunch on my desk all afternoon so I can nibble at it is not recommended, especially if the lunch contains fruit or dairy.

This was a very important lesson. Lunch number 2, with the yogurt … ah. i only ended up eating one of the yogurt cups because the other one stayed at my desk for several hours and became gross.

2. Cookies packed inside the lunch box will go soft.

I saw a photo on flickr where a woman had packed cookies inside her lunch box. Maybe that worked for her, but it didn’t work for me. Oh I ate the cookies, but they weren’t as delicious as I expected because they had gone a bit soft.

3. If it doesn’t look yummy, it probably isn’t

I’m not as picky of an eater as I used to be, but still .. i do have a hard time eating things that look weird to me. i had a feeling about today’s pasta! I should have followed my instincts and fixed the problem this morning and somehow made it yummier.

4. Almonds make a lunch really yummy!

mm .. almonds are good in lunch! That was a stroke of genius!

5. The “bento rules” make sense

So a few of the bento rules I learned when I was researching Japanese bentos are: (1) pack it tight so stuff doesn’t move around (2) use 2 or 3 colours of food in there (3) make it 30 – 50% rice or other main dish and fill the rest of the space w/ other things (4) separate things so the flavours don’t mix.

This is all very practical advice. The advice about packing a few items is very important. It reminds me of the dinners my mom used to make – mmm … 3 dishes in a meal is ideal.

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