Sunday, February 28, 2010

Apartment Hunting Blues Part I

I really wish that finding an apartment was easy and straight forward. But it is not. This morning I looked at some of the classified in the Glendale Newspress online. It seems that I might be able to get something comparable to what I have now for not much more or possibly even less. YEAH! But now I have Sasha and Misha and I need to find someplace that accepts cats. Some do, some don't, some want Cat Rent some want Cat Deposits and some want both. Some want a full month's rent in deposit and some anywhere from $300-$800. Then comes the looksey process which I dread and then deciding how much in overlap rent I want to pay.
Let me state right now, I am tired of paying overlap rent. I have paid up to a month every time I have moved and it gets old especially considering how often I have moved in the last 4 years and then of course factor in the big move from Hawaii and I have spent a lot in moving expenses. Why can't this be cheaper and easier?
My main thing this time is that I want quiet and no drug ealers living below me. I am tired of having questionable people hanging out socializing with my neighbor on the stoop that I have to roust them up from so that I can get to my apartment. I also would like to have a nice kitchen that has lots of space.
Tomorrow afternoon, I might go see a space near the library if the people have moved out. The deposit is $700 plus I have to give the guy $200 for each cat that I will never see again. He says it is a deposit and I guess he is right, it will deposit the money from my account to his. I am not keen on this. Then in the evening I am going to go see Jerry and a couple of his units in Glendale, he wants a full month's rent as deposit and says we will have to talk about the cats. Then on Tuesday morning I am going to North Hollywood to see Freda's apartment. This one requires $800 deposit and she really likes cats so I guess there isn't a cat deposit or rent. It is a two bedroom for less than $1300. I wouldn't mind living in North Hollywood which is kind of in the thick of things but still on the edge. It would be about a 10 mile commute which isn't bad.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Hot Dog Dog

Two Sundays ago during my weekly calls Mom announced that she thought something had happened to Jack, the vagabond dog that roams the neighborhood and enjoys staying at my mom's house a good part of the day.
Jack has been coming around the better part of 4 years and Mom has become fond of him. It says a lot when a dog is able to squeeze into her cat filled heart. He is truly a gentle giant with an equally gentle soul.
For years now, he would show up at Mom's house for his daily hot dog. She kept him well supplied. Then he was gone. A very worried Mom even called the Dog Catcher to see if he picked him up. Since Jack is a gentle dog she thought that he would be a good target for the local Dog Catcher that is afraid of dogs. But no he wasn't in doggy jail so she couldn't go bail him out. I don't know how she would have explained that no he wasn't her dog, he was the local stray but the entire neighborhood loves and they want him back so bring him around and drop him off at the corner. But if he had been there my mom would have gotten her way. She is that kind of lady.
Then last Sunday, Cheryl the neighbor called and said he was sending his wife over to her house with a gift. Mom rushed around getting decent for the neighbor. When she opened the door, there was Jack wagging his tail. Mom reached down to give hime a big hug with tears in her eyes. The neighbor said that he had shown up a few minutes before at their house so after their greetings, they brought him straight to Mom. Jack nosed into the house and laid down while Mom fixed him a can of cat food. The hot dogs had been sadly given away to a friend's dog the week before. Then out of character, Toby, the extremely shy Siamese, went up to Jack, sniffed him, let him sniff her and then rubbed herself on his shoulder. The best that can figured about this unusual greeting is that Toby understood that Jack was the prodigal son returning and was giving her best cat welcome to him.
So the Hot Dog Dog is back and all is right with the world. Everyone figures that someone picked him up and it took him almost two weeks to get away from them so that he could make his way back to the neighborhood that truly loves him and would never pin his free spirit up. Jack does have legitimate owners that he does seem to go home to late in the evenings after a day filled with socializing. But Jack is a smart dog and knows where the hog dog vendor with a heart of gold is located that adores his doggy nature despite herself and lets him protect her when she needs it. But that is another story for another time.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Political Hugs & Kisses

On Tuesday, Congressman Dreier arrived at my library with his entourage for a library tour of the facility that he raised the initial $1.3 million for. Last night was the first Town Council meeting at the library so Supervisor Antonivich was present. He ponied up the additional $21 million needed to complete the library. I don't have a lot of experience with politicians. A few Japanese ones that are a completely a different animal and former Governor Ceyetano of Hawaii. I went on a trade mission with him and other business people to Korea one year. I didn't have much interaction with the former governor, only a few pleasantries during course of several days. Ceyetano was super laid back but I was mostly impressed by his speaking skills. An extremely good orator. So essentially I doubled my politician experience this week.
On Tuesday I felt like a celebrity. The Congressman came complete with cameras. I don't know if people actually knew who he was or not or just that fact that he looked famous but a number of the patrons were whipping out their cell phone cameras as well to record the moment. My first experience with pseudo-paparazzi. The visit started out with a firm a handshake that lasted longer than I was comfortable with. I am always awkward and unsure when it comes to touching other people that I don't know. I prefer the Japanese bow. Even in church my order of preference for offering peace is a bow and then a handshake. I have to steel myself for hugs if that is what the church does. And saying Our Father, I do not like to hold hands with the people around me if I don't know them. So Congressman Dreier's handshake quickly ratcheted up the meter of discomfort especially when he gave me a slight pull in towards him. Completely unnerved, but I kept the smile pasted on my lips. Later, at the end of the tour I did actually get a hug. Super awkward on my part. I felt I was doing a dance move, handshake, in for the hug, and then swing out. I almost lost my balance.
The last night at the end of the Supervisor's words he made his way to to back of the meeting room where I was seated a table. I got up to shake his hand and then he pulled me in for a cheek kiss. Fortunately, I am more comfortable with cheek kissing after years of teaching students from other countries and living in Hawaii where male acquaintances seem to often cheek kiss and closer male friends will actually lip kiss. I had about 3 male friends that would plant me a big one whenever we saw each other. Again my discomfort meter is triggered when I don't really know the person at all. I have been to many events with Supervisor Antonovich present, ground breakings, job fairs, dedications, etc. Also I am greeted by his smiling face every time I check the time. There is a photo of him posted under the clock at the Customer Service Desk. I almost feel that I know him. So thankfully the cheek kiss went off without a twinge on my part. But I did note that I seem to have crossed from a member of the crowd to someone that can be kissed.
I am beginning to feel a bit like a celebrity myself. I have had my photo in the paper and stories where I was quoted no less than 4 times in the last month. I am kind of enjoying all the attention, perhaps I need to start getting out of my comfort zone and offer people more hugs and kisses myself.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Glad to Be Free of Time Warner

Yesterday, I got a surprise when I opened my cable bill. It doubled in the space of a month. Apparently my offer expired. The offer that the cable guy told me would not expire--well except for the Showtime that I haven't watched in 8 months. I don't even know what channel it is and it is too far in for me to surf to.
So I called Time Warner to see what was up with my bill. I expected to see a rate increase in January but that didn't happen. It happened this week.
The call system was very frustrating, It kept looping me through with I'm sorry I didn't understand that. It took me 4:20 to get into the cue. Then I got the service rep from Hell. When I complained about the automated system and that it took me an uncommonly long time to get into the cue, she said We have a lot of people waiting. What? Instead of saying I'm sorry that must be frustrating, we are working on the system to provide excellent customer service, she didn't want to hear that the company she works for has horrible automation. Well, I guess, they hire the same sort of employees as they do machines.
Then she continued to dispute with me on this issue, I said, if you will listen to me then we can get to my problem and you can get to the next customer. Finally, I explained my problem. She looked at my account and said That is your rate. What? No it wasn't until this month, what happened. This took another 3 times explaining before she looked into my account to see what happened to make my bill double.
The I explained that Time Warner has two options they can either reduce my bill back to my former rate or I can turn my cable box in. Then she went on about something, I don't even remember. When I asked to speak with a supervisor she refused. Then I got fed up with her and explained that I wanted to speak with a supervisor about the lack of her customer service skills. This took another 3 minutes of explaining to her that I wanted to complain about her so I needed to speak with someone. Finally, she put me on hold and I spoke to the supervisor which she had previously explained to me did not exist. To be fair the supervisor was professional.
The end result is that there were no special rates and Time Warner would rather not have my business. Which is fine with me because after yesterday's interaction and the fact that the last two times I went to the local store during their business hours they were closed, I am happy to be without TV.
TV is something that I don't really need. For me $50 was a fair price for me to get TV and internet. (Turns out my neighbor has a wireless network that I can cockroach on so I don't internet) But more than $50 crosses what I deem as a fair value for my perceived needs. TV for me is a convenience and not a necessity. When the cable guy knocked on my door offering me the deal with immediate hook up (no being held hostage in the apartment waiting for them to come in the window and then failing) I did a quick value calculation in my head. The cost matched the value I was willing to pay, so it worked. Now the cost exceeds the value so back to the cable shop. If they are open that is.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Jonathan Swift Promoted the Eating of Children... solve the famine woes of Ireland. I have an equally intriguing solution to for library budgets. Like many libraries across the nation and around the world, my system has had one shortfall after another since the economic meltdown under Bush.
Last week we learned that in the next FY our system has an anticipated budget gap of $8 million dollars. Our fearless leader explained that they have to either find the money somewhere or they have to cut out of the budget. In libraries 80% of our budget is generally allocated to salaries. We are a labor intensive organization because basically we are a service organization. Books although expensive do not add up to the cost of someone processing them, retrieving them, checking them back in and putting them back on the shelf. The cost of each book is a one time fee, the cost of the people touching that book is a recurring fee for the life of that book. That is assuming that the item is something that people want and not something that languishes on the shelf for an indefinite period of time.
So what to do? The first step happened several months ago when 40 part-time people were laid off. That was black day for me because I lost a good employee. Our materials budget has been trimmed about as lean as it can really get. Once again this isn't where the bulk of the budget is anyhow. The next step is probably cutting service hours. But I have run a business before and I know that there is no real savings in just closing the building some hours a week. You are still paying rent and there has to be some climate control because there are computers that require a degree of comfort. And since we do not live in Alaska but in a Mediterranean climate that requires cooling for a significant part of the year. No real savings there. So once again we are back to people. By cutting hours you can start enacting more aggressive lay-offs. I am not looking forward to this next FY at all.
Here is my solution to meet the budget short falls that library systems in general are experiencing to prevent further lay-offs. Libraries like to have people leave them $ when they pass on. The Waikiki Library in Honolulu unexpectedly received $2 million dollars when snowbird who used the library on his trips to Hawaii passed away. What a windfall. So libraries do pursue donations of this type and try to make people aware that you can will your money to libraries in much the same way you might to an animal shelter.
So here is where we get creative. Library Systems can develop a crack teams with two prongs. The first prong would be the business suited smooth talkers. They identify people in their service area that have substantial resources and are library users. They approach these people and convince them to sign their trusts over to the library upon their demise. Once a reasonable amount of time has passed to lower suspicions, then the second team is activated. The purpose of this unit would be to make sure that the donors met an untimely accident. The library system become the beneficiary and hence valuable jobs are saved. Budget problems solved, end of story.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

New Year Musings

Today is the convergence of the Chinese Lunar New Year and Valentine's Day on a long President's Day weekend. How often does this happen?
I am renewing my resolutions and hope they stick this time. The first 6 weeks of the solar year was just practice and a dry run right?
The library is now open and we are beginning to settle into a rhythm. It has been incredibly busy with lots of details that require my attention. We have had over 2,000 new card applications so that has taken up all the staffs' time. This past week, I put in extra hours due to programming and community obligations. I am so ready for a long weekend.
My apartment has been out of control for a while now. Since I will be moving at the end of next month, I spent the morning weeding some of my stuff and establishing some order.
The cats are growing and are a joy. Well for the most part. 4:00 a.m. requests for belly rubs from Misha are wearing me out. And Sasha's insatiable curiosity gets frustrating. Nothing and I mean nothing can be left out without it coming to his attention. He gets up on everything and then pulls things down for Misha to play with. Misha seems to be a jewelry thief as I find him carting earrings and necklaces off for his personal enjoyment. And their love of cheese--what more can I say.
So it is New Year's again. The year of the Tiger. The last Year of the Tiger had me in Japan (which celebrates it with the solar New Year). So many things have happened over the past dozen years. Moves from Hiroshima to Honolulu to California. Completing my Master's. New jobs, marathons, the loss of my father, new friends, health issues, some steps forward and some steps back.
What do I hope the next year holds. I hope to finally GET IT RIGHT!! All those things that I want me to be but just am not, I want to become or to forget. So in other words I want to realize who I am and who I am not and then live true to this person. That's all, not much to ask right?