I keep thinking of things I’ve lost

I really, really hope that my hard drive is salvageable. I’m looking for fabulous fonts right now, and it occurred to me that I used to have so many fonts…what a pain to have to go out and find them all again :/

(Whine, whine, whine…)

My poor biographers

According to the radio, the fire was caused by the guy below us flicking a cigarette out his patio door. It landed on a chair, which caught fire. Some people are looking into litigation options for us even though we don’t actually want to sue. There’s plenty of righteous indignation out there on our behalf, I guess.

In any case, now that the investigation is over, the process of salvaging what’s left in the apartments can begin.

We won’t know for a couple of weeks if our hard drives survived. This is because it’s too dangerous to go into our apartment. Some construction people are setting up a support structure so that other people can get into their apartments and try to save their possessions, but we won’t be allowed to do that. It’s too unstable. So we have to wait until everyone else has gotten their stuff, and then the firemen will scrounge for whatever they can find in our apartment and the one below ours. After that, the building will be demolished.

I am really hoping that my hard drive(s) can be saved. I hold little hope for the external drive that had most of my Kyou Kara Maou on it…but you never know. The server, which was nearest to this window, had all our mp3s on it…while it would be nice to get those back, that’s not very likely either.

Meanwhile, my main hard drive had everything else: chat logs, email, photos, writing, websites. This is a huge loss not just to me, but to the people who will write about me in the future! So, as you can imagine, I’m hoping that my hard drive wasn’t completely incinerated, and that a professional recovery company can scrape at least some of the data off the platter.

(This brings to mind a quote from the Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever: “There’s only one way to hurt a man who’s lost everything. Give him back something broken.”)

Updated sidebar

I spent some time throwing together a partial list of stuff we lost–it’s mostly DVDs right now. Then I set up an area in the sidebar for it, under Links. So there you go.

Some semblance of normalcy

You don’t know how much it meant to me to be able to watch an episode of Saved by the Bell: The College Years this morning.

(It was the one where Zack is conflicted about whether to date Kelly or Leslie, with side plots about Screech and a dorky bicycle and Slater switching from easy classes to real classes.)

The guys at smugmug = some of the nicest people in the world

I got an email this morning from Ben MacAskill at smugmug:

Several of us here at smugmug noticed your journal about the tragedy with your apartment! We all send our condolences on your loss, but we are very glad that a lot of your photos were online and not lost at least. I wish there was something tangible we could do to help you out, but we figured the very least we could do was change your account to a free lifetime professional account. I know you have fairly recently renewed, so it won’t help with any immediate monetary concerns. But I suppose in the long run every bit counts, and you at least know we are thinking about you!

I hope you manage to get back on your feet again soon. It sounds like you have a great friend and family support network, so hopefully the transition won’t be too painful. Good luck!

Can you believe that? Not only did they notice what had happened and send their condolences, but they’re giving me a free lifetime pro account…I’m totally overwhelmed by this. It’s just amazing.

Thank you, Ben, and everyone at smugmug!

How to help

First of all, if you’re in a position to help anyone, you should really give to the Katrina relief effort. It’s just horrible what’s happening down there in Louisiana and Mississippi. If you start thinking “I can give Heather X dollars”, at least give X/2 to the victims of Katrina.

Second, I wanted to give people some ideas of things they could do for us that don’t involve just handing us money. While all donations are appreciated, I honestly feel like it’s tacky to ask friends for money, especially since 1) our families are giving us money; 2) we are living very cheaply at Sean’s parents’ house and are therefore able to put the majority of our paychecks into savings.

But I know that people want to do stuff for us, so here are some things that would really help:

  1. Treat us to dinner or something fun. Money is going to be tight for awhile, and we’re probably going to go stir-crazy. (You could argue that I’m already going stir-crazy.) If you’re local, we’d love to go out with you and just spend time together. If you’re not local, you can always send us a gift certificate to something like a movie or a restaurant.
  2. Replace the irreplacable. If I’ve ever given you copies of photos; if you’ve got a story I wrote on your hard drive; if you’ve saved email or chat logs…I would love to see that sort of thing again. Send files (of a reasonable size) to my gmail account (cosleia). (You don’t need to send me copies of any photos that are currently on my smugmug account.)
  3. Clothes. If you’ve got clothes you don’t need that are around our sizes, send them our way. (Steer clear of underwear; I’ve kind of got a thing about wearing other people’s panties.) You don’t need to buy us anything new! We can fill in the gaps.

That’s essentially it. Thanks to Sam for the inspiration for this post!

Of course, furniture and appliances are welcome–I hardly expected any, but we’ve already had offers of a couch, a recliner, a day bed, a coffee table, and a dining room set(!). But please remember that we don’t have any place to put that kind of thing. If you have something you need to get rid of right away, please just go ahead and offload it. I promise you that we’re going to be fine. If you can hold on to it for a little while, at least until Sean and I have time to rent storage space, then by all means, we’d love to take a look.

Thank you so much to everyone for all the kind words of encouragement and the offers of assistance. We’re grateful more than words can say.

Quaker Chewy Granola Bar

I found a Quaker Chewy Granola Bar, Chocolate Chip, in my drawer at work. I guess it’s the only other thing to escape my apartment intact.

Now I’m going to eat it.

Update

We were able to get replacement drivers licenses and social security cards and debit cards and cell phones and keys for our cars.

I don’t want to post contact information here directly, but here’s some general information:

We are living with Sean’s parents. Some of you may know that address.

Our cell phone numbers are the same as they were before. If you have called me and I haven’t returned your call, I apologize. I’ve been very busy but I am trying to get back with everyone. Dawn, I’m sorry I won’t be able to call you, but thank you so much for calling. I saved your message.

We both still have access to our original email accounts. As we don’t have a computer yet, we can’t respond immediately to email, but we will respond eventually. Several friends have generously offered to let us come over and use their computers. We also both have computers at work. My email is cosleia AT QX DOT net; if you email me there I can give you the other contact info.

Sean’s employer very generously gave him the week off, paid, and didn’t remove the time from his normally allocated PTO. I took Monday and Tuesday off and right now I’m at work, which is how I’m posting this message.

My mother is sending me a new camera. It’s exactly the same as the one I used to have. She found it on eBay.

As I understand it, the Red Cross is actually going to help us in some way. AIMCO, the company that owns Springhouse, is also taking up some sort of collection to distribute among everyone who was affected. In addition, friends and family have been helping out.

We are going to live with Sean’s parents probably through the end of the year and just save, save, save. At that point we plan to buy our first house, and that’s when donations of furniture and appliances will be extremely welcome. At this point we don’t have any room for that kind of thing, although several friends have offered to store things for us if absolutely necessary. We are also considering renting storage. Ultimately, though, at this point we would prefer to not receive furnishings and similar items.

We have replaced our toiletries, and several people have given us clothes. Our wardrobes aren’t up to snuff yet but they will be eventually–clothes are still welcome, although you will have a hard time finding things for Sean. We will probably have to buy all of his stuff new. He wears a medium shirt (he prefers polo/golf shirts), and his pants size is 30″ X 34″. I’m currently wearing XL shirts and size 16-18 pants, not that I have ever wanted to advertise my sizes on the Internet. (I’m not telling you about my underwear and bra.)

I am planning on making a new Amazon list called “Things We Lost in the Fire”, which people will be welcome to buy from later–mostly it will just be a catalogue to work from when we go to replace things, and in case we sue or whatever. Sean and I both have ethical issues with suing if it was an accident (in other words, if there was negligence but it was slight), but if there was gross negligence or arson that would be fine.

Sean is ordering us some laptop computers from Dell, but there was an issue with the financing yesterday so he might not get the great deal he was going to get, so we’re not sure if we’re still getting the laptops. Either way, we don’t have room for a desktop in his parents’ house. We have to maintain as small a footprint there as possible, meaning that pretty much everything we own has to be stashed away in a closet or drawer when we’re not using it, so that it looks like we’re not there at all. If I sound a little bitter, it’s because I’m petty and can’t stop looking gift horses in the mouth.

I may go crazy, but oh well.

I have been keeping myself as busy as possible. Last night when everything I immediately needed to do was done, I had time to really think about it for the first time. Of course I’ve been seeing things and saying dryly, “I used to have one of those, but it burned up in the fire.” But I was keeping myself from really feeling it as much as I could. Last night, I had run out of distractions, and I figured that I should let out some emotions, so I cried for a long time.

Then I was having trouble stopping. Sean wasn’t there because he was at a coworker’s house buying the laptops online. It got later and later and I was already upset and I started to worry that he might be dead. I mean really worry. I was hysterical. Finally he came back and it turned out that he’d run his battery completely dead talking with Dell customer service and financing on the phone, so he wasn’t able to call me back. It took me awhile to calm down and finally be able to sleep.

My long drive to Lincolnton this morning gave me plenty of thinking time, but I reverted to trying not to think about it as much as possible. My eyes are dry and I feel like I could start crying at any moment.

And now it’s time to start working.

I feel fantastic.

I haven’t cracked Goblet of Fire yet today…I made a deal with myself yesterday that if I’m going to commit so much time to sitting around reading, I have to do some significant exercise beforehand. (This seems a little weird, because since I’ve been unemployed I’ve been spending my whole day sitting around and reading. But eh.)

I got up at 8:40, made Sean’s lunch, made the bed, and took Goblet of Fire out to the couch. I almost started reading right away, but the determination was in me. I was going to go biking again, no matter what.

The weather looked good; I checked online and it predicted light rain early, and thunderstorms later. I puttered around online, reading news and webcomics, and then got dressed to go.

Today I wore bicycle shorts and my small “flirt” baby tee with barely any sleeves–my goal was to avoid overheating like yesterday, when I wore a larger shirt and long pants. I also nixed the backpack, opting instead to leave my huge bottle of water in the car and just carry my camerabag with me.

As I was driving up River Watch Parkway to the Greeneway, it suddenly started raining. Hard. I had to roll my window up to keep from getting pelted in the face, and put my windshield wipers on their highest setting. It was starting to look as if I wouldn’t get to ride at all, due to Tropical Depression Dennis.

“Maybe I should take weather events more seriously,” I mused aloud. But I decided to plunge ahead. I’d go to the Greeneway, and if it was still raining hard I’d wait a little while for it to die down. And I’d go to the Activities Center to park this time instead of the golf course, so I could hopefully make it to the end of the trail.

Thus decided, I continued on. Somewhere downtown, the rain started to fizzle. As I dropped into the turn lane for 13th Street, I found myself automatically moving for the right hand turn lane, which would put me on the right side of the street to turn towards the golf course. As I drove up 13th Street, I contemplated changing my plans, but my inner debate seemed to be moot as my body was driving me to the golf course regardless.

I got there and the drizzling rain had segued to sprinkles. Rolling down my window, I took a couple of pictures of the weather conditions…

lovely weather we're having

…then decided to go for it. I was a little concerned about bringing my camera, due to the possibility that it might start raining again, but looking up I saw that the clouds were all heading east of the Savannah, which fit what I understood of Dennis’ path, so I concluded that it would probably be safe. (My obsessive compulsive need to have my camera with me wherever I go did not factor in whatsoever, obviously…) As a slight measure of protection, I wore the camera bag looped over my front so I would be leaning over it as I rode; usually I sling it over my back.

As I went along, riding no-handed whenever I could, the dripping rain slowed and finally ended. I was able to take lots of pictures, which of course made me ecstatic. For awhile, the trees would still drop water on me, so I carefully covered the lens whenever I had my camera out. I also had to watch out when I rode through the gargantuan puddles that had appeared everywhere.

Here’s one of the first pictures I was able to take, of that “jungle” I mentioned yesterday.

But it wasn’t long before things had dried out. By the time I made it up to the other end of the Greeneway, it was just a nice day out. Here’s my triumphant visage upon arrival:

If my face looks pink, that’s because it is. Not from sunburn, I don’t think; just from exertion. I was covered in sweat for pretty much the whole ride.

Heading back, I didn’t stop as much (I typically don’t) but I did take some pictures while riding. When I took a break at the Activities Center for some water, I realized that it was hot. The cooling effect of the rain had almost completely dissipated, as had most of the water on the ground; only the larger puddles remained. I drank quickly, eager to get back under the trees, and patted myself on the back for picking such a good riding time. If I’d come later, I would have been caught in the sweltering heat.

Going through the forest after Hammond’s Ferry Road, I heard lots of what I assume were cicadas, just singing away. It was kind of pretty, so I took a movie. If I can think of a good way to post it without destroying my bandwidth, I will. (Unfortunately, smugmug will only host mpegs, and it’s a mov.)

I got back to the stretch of trail along the river, and decided to take some nice river photos. Luckily, I came across two guys in a john boat, fishing.

A little bit after I took this picture, the shirtless man noticed me and my camera and called, “Oh, don’t take a picture of us! We’re supposed to be working!” But hey, it’s not like you can tell who they are, right? :>

A few nice shots of the trail and the houses across the river later, and I was back to the golf course. Rather than going straight to my car, I decided to ride up alongside the course and see if they had any flowering plants; the time in the sun would hopefully dry the back of my shirt some, which was damp from rain and puddle splashes.

Very happily, I came across some lovely flowers.

Finally, after a fantastic ride, I loaded my bike back onto the car. Amused by the fact that my car was now completely dry, I took an “after” shot to go with the “before” shot I’d taken when I’d arrived. Then I looked at the sky. Dark grey clouds were rolling in.

I’d just gotten myself cleaned off (I keep some paper towels in the car, fortunately) and settled in for the ride home when it started raining again. “Good timing!” I congratulated myself. And then I headed home :)

Now, I’ve just finished off a California Cobb salad from McDonald’s and a Low-Fat Berry Berry Smoothie from R. Gabriel’s. I’m showered up and well-fed and comfortable, and I’m filled with that happy exhaustion that comes after a good ride.

I am so happy that I was able to ride the whole length of the Greeneway. The heat definitely seems to be a factor. I will need to invest in some skimpier riding clothes ;>

An hour fifteen minutes at approximately 10 mph. DietPower calls that “leisurely”; I call it “not bad at all!”

And now, finally, it’s time to get back to reading.

I am a total baby

There was a cockroach in my bathroom.

With a clacking flutter of wings, it darted up my wall as I was finishing washing my face.

I screamed, ran out, and shut the door.

“There’s a cockroach in there!” I told Sean. He just looked at me. “Ew!” I said. But he didn’t move.

I went back to the bedroom and put some pants on (pantsless computing is my thing), and then I put socks and sneakers on because shoes without socks is too naked, and then I crept back out to the main living area and cautiously approached the bathroom door.

Sean was still sitting at his computer. He hadn’t moved. I looked at him, then moved the rug in front of the utility closet with my foot, wondering morbidly if there was an army of cockroaches in that closet. I looked back at Sean. He looked at me.

He obviously wasn’t going to do anything, so I opened the door.

The cockroach was nowhere in sight.

“Where did it go?” I simpered. Sean still didn’t move.

I edged the door open slowly and looked behind it. I looked along the wall. I looked over the floor. Then a sickening thought settled into my stomach and I reached out to the towels hanging on the wall, near where the cockroach had scuttled up.

I knocked the first towel.

Nothing happened.

I knocked the second one.

Hideous clack-flapping was my grisly reward, as the cockroach burst out and slapped onto the floor. I shrieked and ducked out the door.

“Get it,” Sean said.

I reluctantly looked back in to find where the roach had scurried to. And I didn’t see it.

“Where did it go?” I moaned.

“It’s under your foot.”

What? Where?” I backed up. And there it was, zipping at unhuman speeds out of the bathroom and onto the carpet. It nestled itself snugly in the corner.

Predictably, I squealed again.

“Step on it!” Sean said. He was getting impatient. “I don’t have shoes on! Just step on it!” As I raised my shaking foot, he added, “Remember you have to twist, because that carpet’s going to be soft.”

Ewwwwww…” and the toe of my sneaker came down on the cockroach.

“Twist,” Sean said. “Twist.”

I did.

When I finally raised my foot away, Sean said comfortingly, “There you go. Now vacuum him up.”

I did.

I then collected all the garbage in the apartment, because certainly it’s acting as bait for these freaky little assholes. Then I came back to the office and clung to Sean’s shoulder and let out a little whimper.

He just chuckled.

My reaction to Revenge of the Sith. SPOILERS, SPOILERS, SPOILERS.

I am three kinds of depressed right now.

The first kind is a result of the perfect tragedy of the story. Anakin turns against everything he believes in, everything the people who love him believe in, in order to save the woman he loves. But as he walks further and further down that path, he loses even that. Just enough. Just enough so that when Sidious causes Padme to die, Anakin finds it conceivable that his own Force-choke was the reason. That he had killed his wife; that his ties with his former life have been completely severed; that all he can do now is move on down the dark path, continue his quest for power–not for any noble purpose, but because it is all he has left.

I could have believed in that tragedy.

The movie didn’t let me.

It was so good. I was thoroughly enjoying myself. I was happy. New things were happening that I didn’t expect, but that made sense. I watched Palpatine’s web of deception and I understood, to the depth of my being, how it was affecting Anakin. I was convinced that it would all culminate in one great event that would send Anakin plummeting into the Dark Side; I had every indication that the story was that strong.

The event turned out to be Palpatine pretending to be frail so that Anakin would save him from Windu–Anakin slicing off Windu’s hand–Palpatine “recovering”, screaming “unlimited power!” and blasting Windu to his death with Force lightning.

This happened, and Anakin said thickly, “What have I done?”

And you see how this could not possibly have been the scene that turned him. For he still had remorse.

But he staggered forward as Palpatine approached him. He dropped to his knees. He said, “I will do whatever you wish.” He said, “I pledge myself to you.” And when Palpatine immediately slay all the Jedi, he said, “Yes, my master.”

In his very next scene, Anakin ignites his lightsaber to kill a child.

I do not believe in Anakin’s fall to the Dark Side!

I do not believe that the man who, for the duration of the film’s exposition, was in anguish over his feelings of ambition and jealousy, who strove to do the right thing, who refused to leave Obi-Wan to die, could so quickly turn to slaying children.

The Windu scene could have been a factor. One that caused him to rethink everything. But it couldn’t be the factor.

Not unless Palpatine was doing something to Anakin’s mind. And while this is a possibility (especially given Palpatine’s apparent ability to kill people from afar), there is no indication that he is doing anything. The film does not provide evidence of this theory. I have only come up with it out of desperation.

That scene is the primary reason for my second depression, my depression at the fact that the movie could have been brilliant. There is another.

Anakin and Obi-Wan’s duel.

“Don’t try it,” Obi-Wan warns, but Anakin leaps anyway–and then Obi-Wan relieves Anakin of all his remaining limbs. Anakin’s body falls to the edge of the rocky hill and catches fire due to the molten lava not a foot away from him. He burns, and writhes, and screams.

And Obi-Wan watches, and then turns and walks away.

“You were my brother,” he said. “I loved you.”

But he was going to let this “brother” die in torment, rather than putting him immediately out of his misery. He didn’t expect Anakin to survive. But he didn’t ensure Anakin’s death.

I can understand the reasoning that Obi-Wan couldn’t stand to kill Anakin. He said as much when Yoda sent him on that very mission. But I find it hard to believe that Obi-Wan could stand to watch Anakin suffer through that much pain. I find it hard to believe that Obi-Wan wouldn’t show his padawan, his brother, mercy.

There is an answer for both of these scenes, and it is the worst answer possible.

“Well, it had to happen that way, to prepare for the other movies.”

These scenes were very good, but in the end they were both forced to fit a mold that was no longer suitable. Realism–I mean story realism, realism of character–was abandoned in favor of getting everything to work out correctly.

I think Lucas was on the road to telling a different story than he originally intended, and I think the new story changed how other things worked out. Padme wasn’t supposed to die in childbirth, after all. Leia remembered her mother. “Very beautiful…kind, but sad.” Lucas had to change this to make Anakin’s fall work out properly. I’m not happy with that edit, but I can understand the need for it. Anakin needed to lose Padme so that Palpatine could manipulate him fully. Leaving her alive would have fit the later movies, but it would have felt unbelievable. “Surely Anakin could sense Padme,” people would say. “Surely he’d look for her, surely he wouldn’t just believe Palpatine’s word.”

Lucas saw that this would be unrealistic, and he modified it. But he didn’t apply the same wisdom to the two most important scenes of the movie.

I do not believe in Anakin’s fall to the Dark Side, and I do not believe in Obi-Wan’s decision to leave Anakin writhing in pain.

Those two scenes were the pillars for the entire film. And they completely collapsed, taking the rest of the movie–which was perfectly planned, well-executed, beautifully rendered, and even decently acted–down with them.

I think the overall story was sound. I think the acting was good. I think the special effects were wonderful, and they didn’t seem to overshadow the plot this time. This could have been a brilliant movie.

But in crunch time, at the moment when everything had to make sense, when I was supposed to be twisted up inside with the terrible necessity of it all, when I should have been thinking, “They don’t know what they’re doing, but it couldn’t have happened any other way”…it all fell flat. None of the artistry that went into making the rest of this film beautiful could save the two glaring plot inconsistencies that sucked all joy out of my final Star Wars experience.

And that, my friends, is my third depression. This is it; this is the end. This movie, that could have been great, that should have been great, has put the final nail in the coffin of the girl who once introduced herself to her dormmates with “The most important thing about me is that I love Star Wars.”

It’s all over. And I don’t even get to say “What a way to go.”

An experiment, and a discussion question

Okay, I’m going to have a little experiment here for my readers. First, I’d like you all to read this paragraph:

I saw someone today while I was out shopping. This person was tall, with brown hair, and was carrying a sack. I really liked the red shirt the person was wearing.

Okay, now that you’ve read the paragraph, the experiment is to think about the person the narrator saw. Try to imagine the person. Get a good picture of the person in your head.

Now, apply the following statements to the person you’ve imagined:

This person is overweight.
This person is black.
This person is female.

Did any of those statements surprise you?

One of the annoying things about language is that implied meanings can work against openmindedness.

Don’t get me wrong–I think implicature is great, and loads of fun. But sometimes when we say things, there are underlying assumptions that are unfair, and often accepted unconsciously as normal.

For example, when I say “a man flirted with me,” and give no further information, what do you imagine? I have realized that I automatically imagine a white person.

It happens that I have been flirted with by two black men in recent months. The first time was in December, and the second time was today.

The first guy in that story from December–the one who just rode by after exchanging normal pleasantries–was white, and the second guy–the one who hit on me–was black. I realized as I was framing the story that if I stated that, I would be inadvertently making some sort of statement. So I chose not to state their races at all.

This morning’s story is much the same. What is the point of saying that the older gentleman–with a winning smile, twinkling eyes, and a salt-and-pepper patchy beard–happened to have dark skin?

Bringing it up now seems to imply something about me and black men, too, which is unfair.

But it bothers me that these men lose their identities if I don’t identify them as being black. How many of my readers share my unconscious prejudice? How many will see “a man” and think “a white man” without realizing it?

There seems to be no ideal solution to this. It occurred to me that rather than omitting race information completely, I could simply add it for everyone. However, I can’t just go along and say stuff like “my white friend, Brooke” and “my Puerto Rican friend, Mari”, because that is just inherently racist-sounding. It’s like I’m labeling everyone so that the readers will know which set of preconceptions to use when thinking about the people I write about. :P A better way might simply be to describe people physically–for example, the man this morning would become “an older gentleman, his smile a flash of white and gold in a dark, lined face”. That’s harder to do, and it still doesn’t completely escape the race labeling, but it might be the best option.

What does everyone else think? Is race information part of a person’s identity? Think back to the experiment at the beginning of this post. Do most people have a “base template” for “a person”, which is then modified by extra information? Do you have one? My base template, I’m coming to realize, is a white male at a healthy weight, with a full head of hair. What’s yours?

I realize that this is a touchy subject, so it might be embarrassing to share your preconceptions. Please don’t feel obligated to respond at all. But I really am interested in hearing some other opinions on this.