Atta Ikede

February 15, 2009

Domestic Canadian things

Filed under: Uncategorized — attaikede @ 10:59 am

I made chocolate muffins last weekend and used up the last of my No Name brand muffin liners.

I think I’ve already mentioned that the movers who packed up my condo literally packed every little thing. When I opened the boxes here last year, I was really surprised to find things like Sunlight dish detergent, Swiffer wet cleaning cloths, jars of PC brand Indian tikka sauce, cans of food like chick peas  and even the No Name muffin liners! It was so funny to find those things in there! Even though I can get most of those things here, the bilingual packaging and PC brands makes the Canadian stuff a little different and fun to have around.

I think with the muffin liners used up, I just finished the last of those things.


The Mop

Filed under: Uncategorized — attaikede @ 10:48 am

You know that theory on urban crime about how a crack down on small crimes like fare jumping and subway graffiti can help reduce larger crimes like breakins?

My dirty apartment has the same problem. When it’s clean, every kitchen spill or stray piece of shredded paper grabs my attention. But then, as time goes on and the dirty dishes pile up on my desk and the loose change and receipts emptied from my bag and pockets start spotting every surface and 3/4ths of my bed gets covered with a mix of clean and dirty clothes, the mess and dirt kinda stop being a problem.  I think I’ve gotten to the point where I find that state of affairs “cozy”!!

This morning I found a mop in the closet. I was kind of shocked when I found it. But when I looked at it, I suddenly remembered buying it a local hardware store last July or so. I bought it along with the broom I’d opened the closet to grab. I was even smart enough to buy a mop with features! The scrubby part is “microbacterial” or something and it has a plastic thingy that you push down which squeezes the mop dry. At least that’s what the packaging claimed.

After calculating that it’s been at least 6 months since the floor was cleaned, I figured I should give the mop a test drive.

The packaging said no vinegar so I added some hotel shampoo into the mop water. I didn’t have a bucket so I rinsed out a plastic garbage can and used that instead.

And now the floor is clean! The shampoo wasn’t the greatest idea though, cuz it made the water foamy and i could actually see soap suds on the floor as I was mopping.  Maybe next time I’ll mix some baking powder into there instead. Or I could use conditioner! Hmm, I wonder if that would make the wood look shiny…

February 12, 2009

Mom and Pop Stores

Filed under: Uncategorized — attaikede @ 7:58 am

There are no “big box” stores in San Francisco. No gigantic home depot, no walmart, no Costco, nothing like that. I was surprised to find a fairly large suburban style Best Buy in the city, but it’s practically under the freeway and it’s in a sketchy part of the city so overall it doesn’t really add any ugly blight to the landscape.

I do agree that the city is cuter without the gigantic parking lots and ugly structures these big box retailers add to the landscape, but when I actually need something and have to deal with the limited inventory and inconvenient hours of operation at mom and pop hardware stores, I get kind of bitter and start missing the Home Depot.

February 11, 2009

Income and old people

Filed under: Uncategorized — attaikede @ 9:03 pm

I screwed up my last couple credit card payments and ended up owing > $50 in interest because I paid both bills late. So stupid. This prompted me to finally get online bill viewing sorted out with the bank out so I don’t have to worry about forgetting to check my mail or anything dumb like that next time I get a bill.

Earlier today, I found this blog called linked from an article I was reading on The Atlantic. It’s a blog where a woman in NYC writes very openly about her income, expenses and various schemes to earn/save/spend. In my opinion it’s a bit apologist in many ways  (she writes about her $70 haircut and then explains that’s cheap for where she lives. Sheesh. Lady, go for your haircut and enjoy it regardless of it’s $20 or $200!), and many of her posts seem to be rambling articles describing pros and cons but not making a point, but she does post her budgets for the year and it’s interesting to see the detail.

I don’t keep a budget or a financial plan for myself. In fact, I don’t know what my cumulative rate of return on my own investments is :(  In fact, most people I know who are my age pretty much say the same thing.

For me, it’s because a calculation like “if i invest x per year at a rate of y%, I can retire at age Z on an income of ABC per year until I die, hopefully at age Q since i”ll run out of money if I live longer than that” seems nuts to me.

I really hope I don’t have to work and work until I retire when I’m old and wrinkly, only to have to survive on some fixed income after that and die before I run out of money. Do you know how vulnerable a person is if they’re on a fixed income? People like that have to worry about things like downsizing their home when metro taxes go up, or when heating costs go up. I do not want to live like that.

I think instead, i’d rather just try to save a reasonable percentage of my income every year, invest a little here and then and just plan to work on and off until I die.

Think about it. A big part of the reason old people don’t work these days is that they can’t work. Work, even office work, is still physical. You have to get into a car and drive to an office and sit in a cubicle and walk around to meetings. Etc. Old people can’t handle the strain of that.

But by the time we’re old, society will finally have realized the dream of e-everything. We’ll be able to sit at home or lie in bed but still be able to contribute something to the workplace! If that’s the case, then the old model of work-save/retire-spend probably isn’t as important for people our age now to worry about.

It’s probably also true that I tell myself these things because I hate doing paperwork and really don’t feel like I’ll ever want to commit an afternoon to financial planning.

February 8, 2009

Prop 8 donors

Filed under: Uncategorized — attaikede @ 3:58 pm

Remember I mentioned Prop 8 a while ago? It was something on the California state ballot back on election day last year.  [edited]

The link above has a maps who donated to the “Yes on 8” campaign.

I checked out the bay area and was totally shocked to find lots of people who donated in the tens of thousands. Not so much in the actual city here but all around in the suburbs. For example — there’s a cluster of 5K donors in the east bay. One “homemaker” donated 25K. Yes. 25 THOUSAND dollars … to bury gay marriage

Sometimes people really scare me.

One point though – notice that the person who created that mashup didn’t sign their name to it.  Is it really ok to create something so inflammatory anonymously?

Taxi Drivers

Filed under: Uncategorized — attaikede @ 11:50 am

1. The ex-pro soccer player

One time last year when I was playing soccer, I grabbed a cab so I could make the game in time.  The driver was an African guy probably in his 40s or so. He and I chatted a bit, and when I told him I was on my way to a soccer game, he smirked and after I asked him about it a bit, he told me he had been semi pro in England 20 years ago.  I asked him how he ended up here doing this, and he said he basically just wasted his money and his talent and now he drives a taxi.

2. The old American intellectual guy with the young Eastern European wife

I met this guy on the way to the airport so we had a long time to talk.  He was old – white hair, the works – but somehow through the course of the conversation I learned that he was on his 3rd wife, a young woman, and from her name I assumed she was Eastern European.  Somehow me and this guy got on the topic of literature and we started discussing Anna Karenina. We talked about that book for the entire 40 minute ride to the airport. What it means, why it’s sad, what it says about love, etc. It was a great conversation.. the best conversation I’ve ever had about a book.

3. The guy who told me the truth about Sudan

Another airport ride, this one taking me home from the Oakland airport. There had been a bunch of taxi drivers out chatting when I went to the taxi area at the airport. As I’d walked up to them, they’d been glancing at me and I felt like there was some “joke” going on. Later, the Sudanese guy told me the joke had been that after observing my Indian complexion, the taxi drivers had bet that I’d be asking to go to Fremont (a city in the east bay that is totally full of Indians), and they’d gone on to make jokes about Fremont. My announcement that I was going to San Francisco had surprised them, apparently.

Anyway, like I said, this guy was from Sudan. We ended up chatting about Sudan, darfur, etc., and he went on to tell me a long story about oil, China, North vs South Sudan, etc. At the time, I didn’t fully appreciate what he said and thought some of it was a little far fetched. A few months later, the Economist had a detailed briefing on Sudan that corroborated everything the taxi driver had told me. Amazing.

4. “What do you think I’m capable of”

I met this middle aged African taxi driver on my way home from SFO fairly recently. From his speech and some of the things he talked about, it was clear he was well educated or well read (or both). He was also noticeably egotistical.

He started talking about his son who was doing a masters at a prestigious university in the UK , and started telling me about his philosophy on higher education and his own previous career in a law firm. I asked him what he did at the law firm, to which he responded “What do you think I’m capable of?”

Ouch! What a question! Considering his egotistical manner, I’d mentally had one eyebrow raised when he talked about working at the law firm because he’s obviously a taxi cab driver now and even though it’s harsh to say this, it’s true that even a janitor could introduce himself as working at a law firm.

I hadn’t said very much to him on the trip and had mostly been just listening to and becoming a little irritated by his pompous talk about his son and the law firm and all that stuff. I think on some level, I’d only piped up and asked about what he did at the law firm to be snarky. Looking back on it, I feel like it was pretty rude question for me to ask. What if he had admitted he was a janitor at the law firm? Was I hoping to get satisfaction from that kind of answer? Like if he was a lawyer then his ending up as a taxi driver is a lesson in life choices but if he was a janitor ending up as a taxi driver then it’s … just a boring story of a guy moving from one random unskilled job to another? Sure, his answer was pretty snarky as well, but in retrospect it was well put and well deserved.

5. The woman

Remember I told you I stayed at a hotel for a few days when my suitcase/laptop/airmattress living got me a little depressed last year? Ah .. that the hotel was pretty nice!

I decided to take a cab back to my apartment after I checked out. It was raining outside. The hotel door guy offered to help get me a cab, and I agreed and waited passively by the door, but he ended up not helping me at all! He got distracted by a business man and totally ignored me! Fine, I agree that the business man was more likely to tip than I was (he was better dressed, older, etc. Had all the markers for being a good tipper whereas I had none), but I’m a girl and I was first in line! Shouldn’t that count for something?? Apparently not!

I gave up on the door guy and went to the corner to try to flag my own taxi. Sometimes it’s really hard to get a taxi in San Fran and that day I had no luck. Until … a female taxi driver parked across the street suddenly peeled over and came to pick me up! We chatted and she told me she’d been on break and waiting for an airport trip or something to come up on the radio but after watching me struggle to get my own taxi in the rain and the doorman ignoring me, she decided that sometimes women need to help women and that’s why she came over. She informed me:  “That doorman was doing you no good!”. I gave her a big tip. She’s still the only female taxi driver I’ve ever met.

6. The German

I met this taxi driver in Vegas when I got a cab to take me to the airport there. This guy was conspicuously Germanic – blonde, fit, wearing a severly ironed short sleeved dress shirt, driving very safely and precisely, speaking with a slight accent.

When I told him I was going home to San Francisco and worked in tech, he revealed that he was a retired tech worker too. Turned out he was German and had immigrated to the states 30 years ago. He had a career in software working in silicon valley as a project manager, then a few years ago he retired and his family cashed out on their property and moved to Vegas because it’s cheap and it was warmer there. Then he got a job driving a taxi to keep busy and presumably also to supplement his income.

He didn’t mention it, but I got the impression he was gay.

February 2, 2009


Filed under: Uncategorized — attaikede @ 9:01 pm

My aunt is going to die soon. At this point, her being alive is .. a technicality.

She was so sweet. Probably the sweetest person I’ll ever know. Really good hearted and helpful and just ..a very soft personality.

I remember going shopping with my aunt and my mom. My mom always made all the decisions in these cases because my aunt couldn’t decide anything because she was always very happy with all the choices. My aunt telling me she liked Marie cookies for breakfast. I’ll always have a few vignettes like this in my heart.

I found out about what happened over email this morning, when I was at work. I was logging into gmail so I could send some mockups for a charity website to a friend. I saw a note from my brother and read it.

I called my mom and talked to her about 10 minutes. I got the facts and it kind of sunk in. I wasn’t going to see my aunt again. I couple tears fell out. It was weird, being in my cubicle, shedding a few tears over a family member on life support in a timezone 12 hours in the future. A cubicle offers a strange sort of privacy. There’s no door to close, no blinds to shut, but coworkers are so used to ignoring other coworkers that there’s like a pseudo door and pseudo blinds, both of which are almost always shut. Today I was thankful for that.

I wasn’t sure what to do after I hung up the phone with my mom. I sent the email to my friend with the wireframes I’d worked on.

After a while I messaged my friend and told her about it. It felt unreal typing it. “Something bad happened.” What? What? my friend asked. “My aunt is going to die.” I wonder how many conversations like that happen over IM. It must be a very shocking message to receive. It certainly is a very strange message to send. Death. How does the receiver know it isn’t just hyperbole?

After chatting with my friend a bit I went for a walk. I walked to the Embarcadero, a wide boulevard that goes next to the bay. I got a hot beverage and sat there on a cement step on the sidewalk for a while. It was really beautiful there. The water was a silvery blue today and the air was clear but a little hazy. I started remembering things about India. The twins who ran a photography store. The way taxi drivers had to tie our luggage, just normal suitcases, onto the luggage rack on top of the car because it was too big to fit into the trunk.

Later, I moved to a set of metal seats. I sat there for a while too. A guy offering free samples of cookies from a sandwich shop nearby came around. I took a sample. He said it was a free cookie but it turned out to only be 1 quarter of a cookie.

At several points today I had this overwhelming feeling of wanting to go to Bombay and see my aunt. Hold her hand. Have I ever held her hand before? I just wanted to see her. But at the same time, I knew I wasn’t going to go, and that it wouldn’t make sense for me to go. It’s practically inappropriate to go. Because who am I? Me showing up there .. I’d be a morbid tourist. Nothing else. Who would I hug, or comfort? Who would hug me? Would anybody think I even needed a hug? Even my parents aren’t going to go, and probably didn’t even consider going.

This phrase was in my head quite a bit today. Morbid tourist.

It kept popping into my head every time I had that urge to go to Bombay.

The truth is I’ve only been to India twice as an adult. I’ve only really met my aunt 3 times as an adult – the third being last summer when she and my uncle took a trip to the states for the first time in their lives. I met up with them in Illinois at my cousin’s place. The times I went to India as a kid, those trips were marred with problems between me and my parents, problems which unfortunately have a prime spot in my memories of India. When I was thinking about India today, there was a part of me wondering if I avoided visiting India as an adult because I was afraid that if my memories of India involved all these stupid negative family memories, my Indian relatives probably only remembered those things about me too. I’m sure there is some truth to that.

When my grandmother died last summer it was exactly the same chain of thoughts that went through my head then as they did today. That same feeling of wanting to go there but knowing it was not appropriate, and the same feeling that I was only sad because I was supposed to be sad, because it was a close family member, and in fact, I was sad because I did not have sufficient memories to be genuinely sad. That feeling was more pronounced when my grandmother died. I realized that day that I’d only really had one decent conversation with her. It was in 2000, when we stood together in the balcony of her apartment and she told me all kinds of things. I don’t remember what we talked about, but it was a good conversation.

I don’t really know what I think about all this. I was sad today and could feel myself moving slowly and heavily because I was upset. A few people asked me if I was ok. I said I was fine.

Then I suddenly realized I was humming like the Umbrella song while waiting for the bus. While I was humming, I wondered how that got into my head on a day like today. The bus ride got me a little depressed again. I was clutching my magazine in my hands, to the point that when I got up to get off at my stop, the magazine unpeeled from my hands like a sticker.

But after I got home and had dinner and tidied up a bit, and went over to get a hershey’s mini chocolate bar for dessert, I realized suddenly that I was feeling normal again. I was feeling exactly the same reaching for the chocolate today as I did yesterday.

I guess I’m feeling normal again now.

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