and I quote

october 2009

click for permalink October 18, 2009

October has been a hell of a month so far, and not in any sense that I enjoy talking about, but here goes.

Three weeks ago, I saw a couple of bugs in the apartment. I killed them and went about my day; in and of itself, this wouldn't have been noteworthy but their relative location and temporal proximity concerned me so I asked Mr. Pink to check it out. In less than 36 hours my reaction to the novel invaders had escalated from those reflexive, isolated acts of annihilation to a full code red lockdown of our entire apartment. We've been living at DefCon-4 ever since.

"It'll be dark soon and they mostly come at night... Mostly."Mr. Pink got on the Internet to do the kind of research I didn't have the stomach for (if you've never had the experience, be warned; when searching any type of bug, the first thing you will find is pictures — horrifyingly high resolution images and diagrams rendered in the kind of loving detail that's certain to thrill the amateur entomologist— and send anyone else screaming from the room to wash their hands repeatedly).

What he discovered was not reassuring. In fact, it was just about the worst prognosis I could have imagined. We started making calls the next morning, after sleeping in the living room with the lights on for the first of several nights. We called the building manager, then the owner of our individual suite, then the Residential Tenancy Office of BC. After 45 minutes on hold, the RTO confirmed what we had learned on the Internet but yet still had to spend the next day amassing evidence of, and writing a letter explaining to our landlords whose financial responsibility our coming ordeal would have to be.

We've since learned from someone else who works in the building that there are currently at least two apartments two floors above us being treated for the same thing. Still, that's only three apartments officially reporting a problem so, for the time being, we're on our own. It does make us wonder about our neighbors directly upstairs, though, and all the unmistakable sounds of frantic furniture moving that seem to be emanating from above at all hours lately.

Our first preparatory step was to empty every closet, cupboard and shelf, clean out every drawer and load every little scrap of fabric — clothing, coats, scarves, bedding, towels, curtains, comforters, backpacks, everything — into enormous, nearly uncarryable garbage bags in order to launder everything and clear the way for the chemical crew. At first, looking around our obsessively possession-laden apartment, I had thought maybe at least we would emerge from this ordeal with a new appreciation for minimalism. Now that it's half over, I don't think this will be the case. At this point what we seem to be emerging with is a newfound appreciation — or at the very least a respectful tolerance — for the modern marvel of petroleum-based pesticides. Honestly, in our darkest hour, we were this close to hunting down a black-market canister of DDT.

moleculeSeeing as I've dragged you this far, dear readers, I may as well outline a few of those "darkest hours" — after all, what harm can it do when so little has been left unscathed by these events? First, there are those unavoidable chemicals, a one-two punch of pyrethroids to be delivered at 10-day intervals by professionals who, it turns out, are as adept at the psychological treatment of the household's inhabitants as they are at dispatching its invaders.

For most people it's probably easy to rationalize the necessary evil of applying pest-destroying poisons for the purpose of reclaiming one's home; for me, it has meant placing my as-yet unearned trust in the same family of chemicals that were once responsible for the death of a beloved cat a decade and a half ago (the memory of which, mercilessly undiminished by time, has plagued me daily these last few weeks).

exterminatorsAfter a 24-hour stay in the hotel across the street to give the chemicals more than four times the recommended drying time before re-entering our apartment, the next 12 hours were spent vacuuming and wiping every exposed surface to make our living room safe for ourselves and Shay. I "retired" to my couch some time after 3 am, blindfold in place and arms folded uselessly over my ears, while Mr. Pink continued vacuuming until just before dawn. I've grown accustomed to sleeping with a blindfold these past few weeks, curled up on my couch wrapped in an empty duvet cover, trying to sleep while my naturally nocturnal Mr. Pink plays video games in his headphones on the couch across from me, and to awakening without my alarm clock, groggy, angry and in miserable pain.

Entering and exiting the apartment for the two weeks preceding our appointment with the exterminators became an intricate ritual of containment, inspection and isolation, so as to avoid cross-contaminating any outside environments. Our entryway became an airlock and my morning ritual began to resemble something out of Andromeda Strain. At the same time, once outside the apartment, I found myself regarding public spaces with newfound caution and avoiding certain zones that seemed suddenly fraught with peril.

The more I read on the Internet (yes, I got over my aversion to "research"), the more alarmed I became; there is apparently an "epidemic," and it seems it's only getting worse as global temperatures rise and urban populations become increasingly unsettled and transient. If you believe all the hype, you could easily become convinced it's only a matter of time before everyone is afflicted. The horror.

biohazardIn times like these, they say, you really find out who your friends are. What a crock of shit that is. My closest friend — by proximity and until recently, otherwise — after hearing the results of Mr. Pink's "research," was so thoroughly freaked out by our predicament — and the sneaking suspicion that we might not be the only ones with a "problem" — that we haven't spoken since that conversation. But then, two of my best friends — technically "work friends" but truly individuals of the highest character — although they've been out of the country all month, when I told them what I was going through at home they both, bless their hearts, only half-jokingly offered to bring me with them. Another friend, from afar, has sent me the most sympathetic emails imaginable; peppered with such sound advice, helpful suggestions and encouragements, they remind me of — well, me.

As amazing as it's been receiving such support and sentiments from a distance, it's a testament to how truly awful this experience has been that I've still so frequently found myself on the verge of committing the cardinal sin of a long-distance daughter — calling my mother and sobbing uncontrollably on the phone, knowing damn well that if I keep it up long enough, she'll find a way to board a plane and be on my doorstep before sunrise... remember I said on the verge.

It's funny... I know I'm a crap friend in a lot of ways; like how it's almost impossible to drag me out to a movie or a nightclub; and how I almost never call them — certainly never "just because" — and how, when my friends tell me about a crush they have on a coworker or some guy they met online, I can be counted on to give the kind of advice their mothers would give, rather than the kind of advice girlfriends give each other on Sex and the City. I forget my friends' birthdays too, which is all the more unforgivable considering how much I badger them for their exact time of birth so I can do their charts — for my own information, not theirs — and how many have even had to call their mothers — or dig through boxes in their parents' basements looking for their birth certificates — in order to supply me with this information.

On the other hand, I don't ask to borrow money from my friends (although I have, on occasion, accepted their offers). I never ask for relationship advice (although, if you hang around long enough, Mr. Pink and I will bicker shamelessly in front of you). When we've had to move, we've hauled every stick of furniture and all our accumulated clutter, from the monstrous CRT television to the tanning bed, ourselves. ladybugWhen our friends have had to move, we've helped them pack, carry, clean, apartment-hunt and fill out applications... Hell, we've introduced our friends to other friends when they needed roommates (as an aside, we don't recommend this — it never ends well). We've counseled countless friends through breakups and let at least three of them "crash" on our couch while they went through transitional phases in their lives.

I don't expect much from people and perhaps this is why I'm never surprised when they vanish at the first sign of trouble but, that being said, I can't remember a time when I've felt more absolutely alone than these last few weeks. I just hope that, unlike these fucking bugs, what doesn't kill me makes me stronger. As for them, I've been emitting a slightly larger than apartment-sized death-ray, targeted specifically to their frequency, telling them to go into the light and their souls will be welcomed to return as ladybugs.


click for permalink October 5, 2009

I have to post an update on what's happening with my geeky little NationStates game thing. Last time I mentioned it a few months back my citizens were paying 39% income tax to live in a "Civil Rights Lovefest," as the game's complex algorithm had labeled it, and their "substantial private sector [was] dominated by the Automobile Manufacturing industry," or sometimes the "Book Publishing industry." Not bad... I mean, who cares if my economy consistently ranks as weak when my Civil Rights and Political Freedoms are in the excellent to superb range? All that with no crime and free universal health care? We should be so lucky, right?

AtlasWell, about a week ago I was going over the new "issues" I had to vote on — there's a new one every weekday — and I asked Mr. Pink what I should do about this one in particular. It was an issue that we would be strongly opposed to in real life — water privatization or something like that — but none of the options offered in the game seemed very prudent. One was to let the corporations have their way; "today the water, next week the air" kind of thing; another was something along the lines of telling all the capitalist pigs to go to hell. There were a few other options, all equally extreme in different directions, but as soon as Mr. Pink heard the one about the capitalist pigs, that was it. I should add that by this point my economy had already slipped from "Weak" to "Fragile" and finally to "Basketcase," which I thought must be nearing the equivalent of game over.

So, one minute Mr. Pink is laughing at my NationState being a basketcase and the next minute he's advising me to tell all my corporations to go to hell... so I did. I thought, what the hell; I'm not really a fan of communism in practice but capitalism certainly hasn't done any better. The capitalists were clever enough to hide the most egregious downsides of their system in "externalities" long enough to come out on top and that bought them an extra 20 years before everything started to slide like a house of cards. If you ask me, I always thought that the Libertarian utopia described by Ayn Rand in Atlas Shrugged was materially identical to a communist workers' collective anyway (but, you know, with benefits... Wink).

Venus ProjectIn all seriousness, if you built a one-size-fits-all futuristic paradise in the mountains or on some island where everyone was free to live, work and love as they saw fit and everyone was magically cured of physical handicaps and mental illnesses (I mean the "real" ones) and immune to human weaknesses like greed, jealousy and laziness, I figure the only way you could distinguish those based on Atlas Shrugged from the ones based on A Stranger in a Strange Land would be, you know, the nudity.

Long story short, my economy is now "Imploded" and my tax rate soared from 60 (it had gone up incrementally from 39) to 98%, which I can't imagine my "compassionate, intelligent" citizens are too happy about. Anyway, we'll see how it goes. What could be worse than Imploded after all? I just hope my NationState doesn't get overthrown by some militant splinter group of fascist consumers. Here are the rest of the details:

The Rogue Nation of Virgontina
Motto: Via Veritas Vita
Category: Left-wing Utopia
Civil Rights: Excellent
Economy: Imploded
Political Freedoms: Superb

"The Rogue Nation of Virgontina is a massive, socially progressive nation, ruled by Commandante Shay with a fair hand, and notable for its national health service, its restrictive smoking laws, its museums and concert halls and its complete lack of prisons. Its compassionate, intelligent population of 1.725 billion are free to do what they want with their own bodies, and vote for whoever they like in elections; if they go into business, however, they are regulated to within an inch of their lives.

It is difficult to tell where the omnipresent, socially-minded government stops and the rest of society begins, but it concentrates mainly on Education, although Social Welfare and Social Equality are on the agenda. The average income tax rate is 98%. All industry is owned and run by the government, torture is illegal, and the fire protection service is wholly government-funded. The private sector is almost wholly made up of enterprising fourteen-year-old boys selling lemonade on the sidewalk, although the government is looking at stamping this out. Crime — especially youth-related — is totally unknown."

On a mostly unrelated note, this sign was spotted recently on Robson Street in the heart of Vancouver's shopping and tourism district. In response to a proposed bit of fascism, er, legislation that would empower police to forcibly remove homeless people from the streets "for their own good" (in other words, for the Olympics), this guy — let's call him the Cardboard Crusader (or maybe Robson Luther?) — posts his modest proposal for 2010 in the town square for public debate. The best part, aside from the sentiment with which I couldn't agree more, is his virtually impeccable grammar. Dare I say it... only in Vancouver?

New Law