Jun 15

A brotherly visit

My brother Greg and his girlfriend were in town this weekend, and of course I had a blast.

Thursday night

They were staying in San Francisco part of the time and with me in Oakland part of the time. Their first night I met up with them for drinks and dinner in the Mission.

I was late but still got there in time for one drink. Greg’s girlfriend was so cute. When she saw me, she said, “Yay, my favorite!” and gave me a big hug.

For dinner we went to Delfina. SO GOOD. We had a salad and calamari for appetizers, and I had the duck pappardelle. For dessert my brother’s girlfriend got the panna cotta, which we also shared.

The weekend

Saturday was our aunt’s 80th birthday down in San Jose. It was at the same restaurant as my uncle’s party but a smaller affair since my aunt wanted something more low-key. The food, as always, was good. Only downside was that I didn’t get to sit with my brother and his girlfriend, whom, by the way, all of our relatives immediately adored.

On Sunday we hung out around Oakland. Greg’s girlfriend loves farm animals so I was hoping the grazing goats and sheep would be around. And they were! We got up close and personal:

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For brunch we went to Rockridge Cafe. Yummy eggs! Then we headed out to the Mountain View Cemetery, which I had no idea was so close to where I live. The place is beautiful and enormous. I loved some of the statues:

The cemetery is the burial place of some notable people, including Samuel Merritt, a mayor of Oakland and the namesake of Lake Merritt; J. A. Folger, the founder of Folger’s Coffee; Domingo Ghirardelli, the founder of Ghirardelli chocolates; Joe Shoong, the founder of the National Dollar Store chain; and, creepily, Elizabeth Short, otherwise known as Black Dahlia.

I was sad to see my brother and his girlfriend go, but I was glad they were able to visit me before I move back to the east coast.

Jul 14

This place gets my goat

I was hanging out in my apartment one morning when I heard what I swore was a baaing.

That’s right: a baaing.

At first I thought I must be hearing things, but then I heard it again. And again. Finally I looked out my window. That’s when I saw them: dozens of sheep and goats grazing on the hillside across from my building.

Some blurry sheep and goats.

For the past 15 years, goats and sheep have been used to prevent wildfires in the Oakland hills (it’s a high-risk for fires, as I found out via my fire alarm debacle). They eat the “tall grass and shrubs that provide lethal fuel to wildfires,” says Oakland North, and are environmentally friendly. Unlike lawnmowers and other equipment, they don’t use gasoline. Plus they’re way cuter.

On another day, I caught a closer look at the noisy grazers:

Goats and sheep aren’t the only wildlife I see in my complex. There’s also a family of wild turkeys:

The turkeys kind of fly! Or at least they glide, as one did out of tree right in front of me, giving me a good scare.

They’re mostly skittish, but the male can be aggressive. Some days he’ll come out and challenge cars. He’ll stand in their way and refuse to move, feathers all puffed and gobbling up a storm. Some drivers come out and try to wave him away, but the best method seems to be to keep driving, albeit slowly. Inevitably Tom Turkey will jump out of the way, and perhaps get in a couple of pecks in the meantime.

For a while there were also warnings about coyotes in the complex. It seems, because of the drought, they’re drawn to the pool as well as the food people leave out for the feral cats.

Yup: feral cats too.

California, you so crazy.

Oct 13

A visit from Mom

Since I moved out to the west coast, I don’t get to see my parents that often. So I was glad when my mom came out for my uncle’s 80th birthday dinner in San Jose.

Although the dinner was the main event, complete with several courses —

— for me it was secondary to my mom’s visit.

We met up on the train, and I took her to my fabulous apartment in Oakland. It was her first time seeing it, and she loved it, as I expected.

Our first night we spent a relaxing night in, eating leftover noodles from my aunt and watching TV. The next day we headed out to Oakland Chinatown.

My mother used to go often when visiting my grandmother in Berkeley, and she still remembered where things were. We had dim sum at a place called Legendary Palace. It was very good:

I had managed to convince my mother to make me dumplings so we found a grocery store and got the ingredients. And, long story short, voila!

Mom thought the wrappers were weird, but to me the dumplings turned out delicious. I ate a million.

Before we knew it, it was time for Mom to fly back to the east coast. I brought her to the airport, and as we said goodbye, she looked sad. But I told her I had fun and she looked happier.

Aug 13

Panic alarm

Don't Panic BadgeWhere I live in Oakland is considered a Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zone. This explains the goats I’ve seen grazing on nearby hills as well as the sprinklers I have in every room of my apartment.

However, I didn’t know any of this until this week.

For the first several days that I lived here, it got pretty cold at night. So cold I had to turn on the space heater and wrap myself up in a blanket when I watched TV. Then early this week the weather got warmer, and Tuesday night the apartment felt particularly toasty when I came home late from conditioning class.

However, thinking nothing of this, I jumped into the shower.

Then the smoke alarm went off.

When I say “went off,” I mean “screeched incredibly loudly,” as smoke alarms do. Not only that, the other alarms in the apartment went off as well.

At first I thought maybe it was the steam from the shower and tried to wave it away. The alarm stopped after a few seconds, and I thought that was it.

But then it went off again, and again. And again.

My friend who owns the place had told me story of a tenant who made her come to the apartment because the smoke alarms were going off. At the time I thought, What an idiot. Now I was the idiot calling my friend and sending her panicked texts.

The alarms seemed to be going off randomly. I wasn’t cooking, and I didn’t think the steam from my shower could have that much of an affect. I took the battery out of one of them, but then it made that annoying chirping noise. Also I couldn’t get the cover back on properly.

The alarm in the living room was a bigger problem. I have 18-foot tall ceilings, which is lovely, except that there’s no way I can reach the alarm. I started to panic. Would these alarms be going off randomly all night? Why wasn’t my friend answering her phone? What could I do?

I ended up knocking on a neighbor’s door. While she couldn’t really help me, she did have one good suggestion: call the fire department for advice.

So I did. First making sure they knew it wasn’t an emergency, I explained the situation, and told them how desperate I was for help.

The woman said, “We don’t normally send people out for that kind of thing, but you sound nice, so I’ll ask.”

A couple of minutes later, she came back and said that someone could go out there since it wasn’t too busy.

I was relieved at first, but then thought, If the alarms are malfunctioning, they won’t be able to fix them anyway. So I, get this, made a  reservation at a hotel in the city. It was pricey but I didn’t care. That was how desperate and panicked I was. Then I called the fire department and told them to cancel sending guys out here.

I got dressed and started to get my stuff together, but I was still upset. I didn’t want to go to a hotel. I wanted to stay home. As I was trying to focus on packing a few things, there was a knock at the door. I opened it to find three burly firemen.

I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy and embarrassed at the same time.

They asked me a bunch of questions. Was I cooking? Had I turned on the heat? The A/C? Had I taken a hot shower?

The shower! The steam, combined with the warmer than usual temperatures, was indeed the culprit. Because this is a high risk area, they explained, the smoke alarms are super-sensitive and hard-wired together. That means, when one goes off, they all go off, which is how they knew they weren’t malfunctioning.

One of the guys fixed the alarm cover that I couldn’t get back on, and they opened up the porch door and told me to turn on fans and open the windows. I kept apologizing and thanking them.

“Don’t worry,” one of them said. “We’ve seen this before.”

The alarms didn’t go off again that night, and now I’m extremely careful about opening windows and turning on fans whenever I shower or cook.

The firemen were so nice, if I baked, I would bake them something and bring it over. But then I might set of the smoke alarms again.

My friend did get back to me soon after the firemen left and confirmed what they said, and I was even able to cancel my hotel reservation with no penalty, all of which tells me panicking has no negative consequences and I should totally do it again.

[Photo: CC BY 2.0 by Jim Linwood]

Aug 13

The first 10 days

It’s been a whole 10 days since I moved into my new place. Here’s what’s been going down.

Delancey Street Movers

While I was stressed about the move, everything went smoothly. I hired Delancey Street Movers, which had been recommended to me by a few co-workers. The organization is, as the website says, “the country’s leading residential self-help organization for former substance abusers, ex-convicts, homeless and others who have hit bottom.” My co-workers raved about them, saying they were fast and professional.

And they were. There were five guys – a couple sporting neck tattoos, a few missing teeth, but all polite and fun – and one crew leader, and they were awesome. They were extremely thorough, very careful about wrapping up my stuff and at my new place, patient as I hemmed and hawed and changed my mind about where to put furniture. When they were finished, the crew leader encouraged me to spread the word.

“I’ll tweet it,” I said, which for some reason they all found hilarious.

The only snag was the guy I had spoken with on the phone wasn’t clear about the price. He had said $35 per guy but left out “per hour.” He didn’t give me a total, which I should have insisted on. So it was more than I thought it was going to be, but still worth it. There was no way I could have done it myself, they did an excellent job, and it’s a good cause.


There were a few things I expected to be disasters but weren’t.

Public transportation. Since I was taking public transportation to the new place, I thought it would take me a good hour to get there and that the movers would be waiting around (the crew leader promised me, however, that they’d take me off the clock if I was late). But it only took about 45 minutes. I hopped a cab to the Powell Sttreet BART, then another cab from Rockridge to the place. Once you get on the BART, it’s pretty fast.

The big truck. I was also worried that the movers’ truck wouldn’t fit through the gate at the condo complex, and that they wouldn’t be allowed to drive up the hill due to weight issues. I kept picturing them having to move the furniture from beyond the gate a far distance to my apartment. But they fit through the gate and got up the hill just fine. They parked in front of the garage and brought in stuff that way. I relaxed upstairs and just waited for them. Unloading the furniture was much faster than loading it up, and I was thrilled to see the place come together as they set everything up.

Comcast. Finally, if you remember, I was quite stressed about my cable/internet situation. I kept hearing that trying to move Comcast was a nightmare. That old service got canceled early, that service people never showed up, etc. etc. Still, that Monday I tried moving my service online, only to find that the prior tenants hadn’t yet canceled theirs. Comcast said they would contact them, and also I asked my friend (who owns the condo) to ask them to cancel it.

I assumed that they would never do it and started looking to other options, like MiFi. However, that was much more expensive than I thought. At the same time, I got thisclose to buying a device and signing up for a plan, until I decided to wait one night and see what happened.

I’m so glad I did because the next day, my move day, I took a chance and called Comcast. It turned out the prior tenants had canceled their account by then, and that since the apartment was already set up with Comcast, all I had to do was hook everything up and call an activation number.

And lo and behold, it worked. My internet was immediately available. I was confused at first about the cable. Turned out I couldn’t activate it until it was actually wired up, which I couldn’t do because I neglected to take a cable wire with me. Dehr.

Luckily I had taken the next day off so I was able to pick up what I needed, and after I hooked it up, it worked. Hallelujah!

A breather

I had taken an extra day off just in case, and I was so glad I did. I went into the city early and picked up a couple of hair care products I had left in the medicine cabinet and to drop my keys off with the management company. Then I had the whole day to have a leisurely breakfast and pick up a few things (like the cable wire).

And you know what else I did? I saw a movie. Star Trek into Darkness. It was SO GOOD, and the best reprieve to several stressful days.

The commute

Since commuting for a week, I’ve come to find that it’s really not bad – that is, if everything goes as it should. If there’s no Bay Bridge traffic and CalTrain is running normally, it’s actually quite nice. It’s a one minute walk to the bus, which is one of those nicer ones with soft seats. I listen to NPR and stare out at the water, and in about 30 minutes we’re in the city.

Then it’s a less than 20 minute walk on the Embarcadero. I’ve already fallen in love with that walk. It’s peaceful, the sidewalks are nice and wide, and it’s right next to the water. I usually manage to catch th 8:19 train, which is less than 30 minutes.

But if something goes wrong, everything goes wrong. On Monday a big rig caught on fire on the Bay Bridge, and that 30 minute bus ride became more than an hour. Thursday night the CalTrain hit a car (only minor injuries) and there were delays of over an hour. A co-worker and I split a cab to Millbrae, where the BART is, but I had long missed my bus and had to take a cab from the BART to my place.

So when things go well, it’s pleasant. When things go bad, they go really badly.

Oh well. I’ll survive.

The apartment

What helps is that the apartment itself is so nice. It’s way bigger than my old place and has tons of storage space. In fact even more than I need. Plus it’s in much better condition, so quiet I haven’t worn earplugs at all since I moved in, and you can’t beat the view.