Monthly Archive for February, 2013

A Family that lived so remotely from human contact, it missed WWII

In my never ending search for the next bit of knowledge or information that will blow my hair back, I finally came across that most interesting bit I have read in five years when a friend posted a link to an article on Smithsonian.com about a Russian family that fled religious persecution, so it retreated into the wilderness of Siberia where for two generations it ultimately live so remotely from the world that this family made no contact with humans other than themselves for 40 years. This story has great sacrifices, determination, and loneliness. It shows what is within us all. A must read, about 10 minutes.

For 40 Years, This Russian Family Was Cut Off From All Human Contact, Unaware of World War II | History & Archaeology | Smithsonian Magazine

A Fascinatingly Disturbing Thought by Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson

A few times a year, I come across a deep thought that makes me think, “Hmm. I’ve never thought of that, but I sure will think about it some more,” and then it becomes part of my philosophical and mental vocabulary of thoughts. I thoroughly enjoy moments like that.

Here is a question and answer session Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, a great mind, where he discusses an enigma that keeps him awake at night. It’s about a 12 minutes monolog that ties the fabric of the cosmos to the fabric of intelligence.

Apartment Flood of 2013

Last weekend I experienced my first domestic flood in my adult life. We woke up to a Friday morning with a flooded bathroom, master closet, and partially wet bedroom in our apartment. I felt calm about it because I knew someone else had to fund the clean up, but I also underestimated how bad it was. Monica used towels to mop up the bathroom which was in about an quarter inch of water essentially ruining the bathroom mats. I immediately paged the off hours repair crew at 7:45.

At 8:49, the apartment management called back, and instructed me to start moving things out of the bedroom. I knew I could not move everything myself, I was slow to react, and about a dozen minutes later, people came knocking on the door. They started moving everything around: dressers moved into the bathroom, bins and boxes in the closet were moved into the bathroom, bookcase and dresser drawers were moved into the living room along with the vanity mirror.

All of sudden, the apartment seemed very cramped. The vendors ripped up the carpet and pulled up the mat underneath it to throw it away. They came in with a long powerful vacuum hose and sucked up a lot of water. The cats have long claimed their hiding spots by now. Then, the apartment maintenance guy stopped by to check on the work and provided me his direct contact information, which at first I did not think I would need. Professionals were taking of me, after all. He explained a 2 inch hot water pipe burst on the other side of bedroom wall. He asked if I wanted housekeeping to clean up anything. I told him that all I need is muscle to move everything back in where it when the cleaning is finished. The vendors set up a squire cage blower in the closet and an industrial dehumidifier in the bedroom and promised that they would put everything back.

Fridays I work from home, so fortunately, I could “fit this in” to my schedule. I called my insurance company, per instruction of the apartment management, and I found out my agent is no longer with my insurance company. I have a new agent now. I tried to get in touch with her, and when I finally did by the end of the day, there was no reason to make a claim.

The whole thing was like adult Tetris. Our bed was on the other side of the room at one point, and then moved back. Shortly after the vendors left, the apartment manager called me at 12:18. Her main concern was that we were without water, which I barely noticed in all of this commotion. My main concern was how we are supposed to live like this, and whether it was safe to sleep around that industrial dehumidifier. She said it was because it was like any other that consumers buy. By evening, I concluded that it was too loud and too hot to sleep with that thing in the bedroom.

We set up a cot in the living room and spent the night in there. Needless to say, Friday nights in our apartment are sarcastically entertaining how adolescent drunkards walk past our front door, and we can hear their squawks. We tried to make the weekend as normal as possible: worked out, ate out, ironed clothes, etc., and additionally started looking for new places to live when this lease ends.

The next day, I called the maintenance guy to better understand what was going on because by that time, the bedroom was quite dry. The maintenance guy returned with the vendor Sunday, took the blower fan, and moved the dehumidifier into the closet, which was quite damp still. By this time, the smell of the machine that must have absorbed smells of other people’s homes began to share its historical smells into my dwelling.

Monday morning came. We were promised we would be the first on the list that day. Morning turned to late morning, and by lunch time, the vendors arrived. I made arrangements to work from home that morning. They went to work laying down the new carpet mat. It was a different set of guys who 1) asked where their blower fan went, and 2) were perplexed how to get the mat under the carpet when there is a bed on it. I had to explain the history about the blower to a guy who seemed to be the boss, an older gentleman who spoke English in a distinguished Mexican accent. I was glad that I don’t have to deal with problems like that how to move a bed around inside a room to get to the floor underneath it.

I do not know how the guys do this every day. The amount of dust they kicked up was unimaginable. Sleeping in that room that night caused me to wake up with a cough and drainage that caught all of that dust, despite my attempts to ventilate. When the carpet was fixed, the vendors sprayed their scented water in the room, and a guy who could barely speak tens words of English said, “10 minutes”. I asked “10 minutes for what?” He just looked perplexed. I asked, “You will be back in 10 minutes to put all my stuff back?” He shook his head yes.

I set my phone timer for ten minutes. After 12 minutes, no one returned. I called the office and asked whether anyone is coming back. They thought they were finished. I said, “They promised to help move all of my stuff back, and I need it done soon so that I can return to work.” Two minutes later, the guys returned, but this time annoyed that they have to be acting movers. Well, sorry dudes; your business deals with something that is usually underneath everything else in a dwelling! The old man asked what to move. I said, “Everything. It didn’t move this stuff.” They put no care into how they moved it. Things were left crooked, and he even asked me to help. My attitude is when blue collar man is earning his living, I do not expose him to liability by touching what he is paid to touch. I could pull my back, or something. I sit at a desk all day. I have weak hips like all other nerds.

Like Sokoban, he stood there trying to figure out how to move a bookcase full of books from the living room to the bedroom. I told him that his guy had plastic coasters. He sent his young fellow to get them, and he had me help him move the bed back in place. I became empathetic towards him after that. I was angry that I had to see to them doing their job to the end. They left without saying anything. Red Carpet is this vendor.

And that anger is what carried over to the evening when I wrote a disappointed e-mail to the apartment manager because no one followed up. No one provided oversight while they were there. No one explained what will happen next. I did not even know if someone was about to come back and whether I could finally get ready for work. I felt this was poor customer service, even though I am sure there are many other issues management deals with simultaneous. I don’t expect to be treated like I am the only customer with a problem—that would be true luxury living—but I do expect to feel like they remember.

Fortunately, the following day, I got a phone call with a concession for rent for this major inconvenience, and we reached a mutual understanding. I exhaled and felt happier; I didn’t realize how stressful this actually was. And yes, the dust was almost measurable from this experience. When I finally stopped the ceiling fan, a pack of dust was on both, the leading and trailing edges of the blades, and this fan was recently dusted a few weeks ago. Lesson: when playing with used carpets, dust will be massive.