Monday, October 30, 2017

Smoke Detector Story

Here is my story! I actually finished typing it in time for Halloween haha. There might be a few typos but here it is!



Smoke detector story

In a world of eyes, she was all ears. She had been this way as long as anyone could remember. Even as a toddler, when her parents tiptoed up to her room to check on her during the night they would open the door only to see her eyes shining back at them in the dark. She cried at fireworks and even at movies, where the dialog hit her ears like thunder.
              Now she would often startle people out of their wits by appearing suddenly around a corner or on the other side of a door. She would stare at them serenely as they jumped and yelped, for she had been hearing the shuffling of their feet, their voice, or the faint jangle from their earbuds for several seconds before she saw them.
#
She first heard it a month after she moved into the apartment. As she washed her hands before bed, a little beep pierced through the crash of water and into her ears. As soon as she registered the sound, she knew she had been hearing it for a while now, perhaps several minutes, without knowing.
              A few seconds later the beep repeated itself.
              “It must be a smoke detector, low on batteries.”
              In pajamas and slippers, she stepped out into the hallway. Orange geometric-patterned carpet and vaguely yellow walls made the space feel constricted, yet stretched. From the open window, a cool breeze touched her shoulder.
              Up and down the hallway she wandered. Sometimes the beep seemed louder at one end, sometimes at the other. The echo deceived her. But the walls only held red circular bells—they contained no sound but a truly ear-splitting jingle in the event of a fire.
              On the stairs, the beep immediately became muffled, so she knew it had to be on her floor. She pressed her ear to each door in turn, waiting nine seconds at each (she had it timed) to judge the beep’s volume. Now she had it—it was 203, the room next to hers. No wonder she could hear it so well in her bathroom, which shared a wall with the other apartment.
              She knocked on the door but heard no answering movement from within. So she waited.
              Beep.
              Beep.
              She knocked again.
              Beep.
              Beep.
              Beep.
              At the third failure, she returned to her room. From her living room couch, her cat stared at her with suspicious green eyes. As she fumbled in the closet looking for her files, she heard clearly the beep through the closed apartment door. These doors were heavy, secure. But not heavy enough.
              She read off the 24-hour number of community management. But she only reached a machine prompting her to leave a message or call 911 for emergencies.
              “Well, it’s not an emergency,” she thought, and left her name. That was all she could do for the night. In her bedroom—yes even here she could hear the faint suggestion of the alarm, now that her ears had been attuned to it. Inescapable as her own pulse throbbing inside her veins.
              She put in her earplugs, turned on the fan, and tried to sleep.
#
“Hello? I’m the person who called last night. The alarm is still going off—I mean, low on batteries. But it’s loud. It’s really annoying. I work from home, so…anyway if someone has a key or you could contact the owners, that would be great. My number is…”
#
That day she took refuge at a local coffee shop where she could hole up in a corner with her laptop. AS she walked back to her home, she dreaded having to enter that hallway and be at the mercy of a noise, whenever it came. The noise that screamed, “Hey! Pay attention to me! Don’t forget me! I mean something is wrong!”
              But it found her before she even got to the hallway. Out in the courtyard, with a raucous fountain shooting six feet in the air, she could still hear the insistent beep floating down from the apartment next to hers.
              “How can they stand it?” she wondered, looking at the housewives in their saris, chatting on a bench just under the apartment’s balcony. They seemed oblivious to the noise.
              Her cat didn’t seem to notice either, and she was glad for her sake. In the animal brain, time stretched and the future barely existed. Those eight seconds of silence overwhelmed the one second of noise, rather than the other way around. But when she turned on the fan over the stove for the white noise, the cat’s ears went back with annoyance and she bounded over to her cat treehouse.
#
As the days wore on, the lights never came on in the other apartment. The blinds remained forever shut. No potted plants or furniture decorated the balcony. While she often heard footsteps in the unit above, or TV pounding up through the floor, not a rustle nor a murmur came from the unit next door. The place was as silent as a tomb—except for the beep every nine seconds, which kept that probably-empty space forever on her mind.
              She had developed a routine now. Run through the hallway, head down, key in hand. Turn on the fan when cooking. Never go out on the balcony. Keep her laptop packed so she could take it with her to the library or café. If she watched TV, she put the subtitles on. With white noise in the background she couldn’t hear the dialog. Without it, she heard the beep during every quiet part. Work was the same problem. She edited podcasts for a company remotely so she needed to listen closely to normalize the sound.
              Overall, she didn’t spend much time in the living room anymore, where the beep was hardest to block. She ate on a tray on the floor in her bedroom, and brought more of the cat’s toys in there. It was a good system, but sometimes the cat woke her up at 3:00 am to be let out to the litter box.
              After a week she stopped hoping that the owners would return and change the batteries, just as she stopped hoping anyone would answer when she called community management. Many in the complex had family overseas and went abroad for months at a time. She reasoned that this must be what happened to the owners of 203. If they had stopped living in the place for good, there would have been people coming in and out a few times a week for viewings.
#
One night she happened to arrive in the usually-empty hallway just as a couple was leaving. A roundish girl with a friendly face and her bearded boyfriend.
A rush of longing for human sympathy prompted her to remark, “Annoying isn’t it?” (beep)
The girl heard her right away. “I’m sorry. What’s that?”
“The smoke detector. It’s been going off for weeks now.”
“A what?”
“A smoke detector.”
“Where? Do you think there’s a problem?” The girl’s eyes grew large with worry.
“No, it’s—”then the alarm went off again. She winced. “I think it’s low on batteries.”
“Oh, good. You had me worried there.”
“But it’s pretty annoying.”
The girl showed a concerned face. “Where exactly are you hearing it?”
“Out here, and in my room.”
“What does it sound li—”
“That was it!”
The three of them stood silent for anther eight seconds. The bearded guy looked at his watch.
“Oh, that! I think I’ve heard that yesterday, now that you mention it. I didn’t know what it was. You have really good hearing!”
The guy said, “Babe, we’re gonna be late.”
              Before the girl turned to leave, she offered, “Hope it stops soon.”
              The couple turned the corner and the elevator dinged as it arrived on the second floor. Before the doors hummed shut, she heard a burst of laughter. But she didn’t know if they were laughing at her or at something else, having forgotten the conversation entirely.
#
“Hi, um, it’s me again. I’ve been calling about the smoke alarm. Just wanted to notify you that it hasn’t stopped. I haven’t seen the owners of that unit, or I would talk to them. This is just an update.”
#
Each time she returned to her apartment to sleep, she hoped the beep would be gone, or at least staring to get softer. If the hallway was quiet when she entered she would delude herself into thinking the silence had stretched beyond the allotted eight seconds. Then the beep would come again, slicing through her ears, making her crash down to reality.
              She Googled “How long will a smoke detector go off before the batteries run out?” No one seemed to know. Official sites stressed the importance of changing batteries regularly. Someone on Yahoo Answers said, “Basically, you’re out of luck. Try earplugs.”
#
Now she had spent more time living with the beep in her new place than without. Her old place had been a studio in a divided-up house, where the landlord had charged her 50 dollars extra for her cat and the downstairs neighbor tended to set an alarm for 10:00 pm on Fridays and leave for the night at 9:30. Her next door neighbor had to get up for work promptly at 7:00 am and therefore set her alarm for 6:00 and hit the snooze every ten minutes for an hour.
              She had been so happy to snag the new apartment, where she only had one neighbor to worry about. But this one unit produced a sound annoying on a scale she had never even imagined possible, and she was the only one in the building who was bothered by it.
              Maybe it was something wrong with her, that made her irresistibly attractive to smoke detectors, car alarms, midnight arguments, alarm clocks, barking dogs, trains, and rattle-y shutters on windy nights. If there were people who could see ghosts and whom ghosts followed mercilessly, maybe she was the equivalent for annoying sounds, those nearly immaterial presences who could so easily be ignored in plain sight.
              Hot tears squeezed through her eyes as she wondered why she couldn’t just ignore it, let it just be there in the background and not something that had to be noticed. How could a person let such a tiny thing get to her? But she couldn’t. No matter how hard she tried, her ears, unlike her eyes, just weren’t made to shut.
#
In the middle of the night, she woke in a cold sweat. Fumblingly, she switched on the light, even though what had scared her would in no way be affected by the change.
              It was there. In her dream. She had been walking down the hallway, weighed down by her computer bag and groceries, knowing her cat needed to be fed. But each time she turned the corner, she found herself back facing the same hallway, her room at the far end. Or it stretched and no matter how fast she walked she never came to the end.
              But the beep never changed, even when her heart was racing. It came every nine seconds like clockwork. She had it memorized. How could she not? Every moment at home was spent either avoiding it or straining her hears for the slightest change that would mean it was weakening. Though she didn’t dare remove her earplugs, or turn off the fan, she thought she could hear the faintest suggestion of the beep even now. Were her ears playing tricks on her? Now it came after five seconds. Now thirteen seconds passed with nothing.
              Either way she couldn’t win. If she did nothing the beep would keep her up. But if she added white noise, her overactive imagination would start replicating the beep on its own.
#
“Community management. How can I help you?”
              “Oh! Um…I…I’m the person who was calling last month. About the smoke detector that’s low on batteries.”
              They laughed. Obviously the knew who she was. “Yes, we sent maintenance check three weeks ago but he couldn’t find anything wrong. Are you sure it’s coming from inside a unit?”
              “Yes. It’s 203. I checked.”
              “So we actually can’t enter some of the units, since they’re privately owned. We don’t have a key. The maintenance guy knocked but no one answered. Have you ever seen your neighbors on that side?”
              “No, I’ve never seen anyone come in or out. The lights are always off.”
              “Yeah, we’ve got people who lock up, go back to their home country for six months, a year, that kind of thing.”
              “Yes, I know that. What can I do?”
              “You say it’s not going off right, it’s just low on batteries?”
              A reassuring laugh. “It’s not actually dangerous then. You don’t have to worry about it.”
              “But it’s really loud.”
              “Yeah…There’s not much we can do about the hallway. Close you’re front door when you’re inside. The walls are pretty thick so you shouldn’t hear it anymore.
              “I can still hear it.”
              “We haven’t gotten any other complaints from that complex.”
              “I’m the closest. We share a wall.”
              “Closing the door should still muffle the sound. Try doing that.”
              Silence.
              They asked, “Are there any other concerns I can help you with?”
              “No.”
#
Light was coming in through the blinds, but she was still awake. In the early morning stillness, punctuated by the beep, she padded out in her flip flops to the main room. Her cat mewed for breakfast so she had to attend to that first.
              Then she walked out onto the balcony. The sound was louder out her, without even the fountain’s crashing to muffle it. The clouds were just beginning to turn golden.
              She leaned over the rails and peered into the other balcony. Closed blinds as usual. No potted plants or deck chairs. A lone thermometer read 62 degrees, although to her it felt warmer than that.
              The sliding glass door was unlocked.
              She looked away, let a beep pass, and looked back. How had she not noticed? The little lever was down. On her door, that definitely meant unlocked.
              As the morning wore on, people would come to sit in the courtyard, walk their dogs, let their kids run on the lawns. She quickly scanned the area for signs of commuters on their way to the office, and saw no one.
              Now.
              Slipping off her flip flops, she threw one leg over the railing. From behind the screen door, her cat watched, tail swishing like a pendulum. The wall separating the balconies wasn’t very thick, so she just had to stand on the slats and step sideways, then over.
              On the other balcony, she looked around again. No one had seen her, apparently, unless someone were watching unseen through a darkened window. She couldn’t help that now. She tried the door. It slid open slowly, sticking a little so she really had to pull. But it was unlocked. The beep got louder without the glass shielding her.
              She stepped into the apartment. This one had carpet in the living room so her feet made no sound. Otherwise it was the same layout as hers. She walked past a spindly black dining room set, an empty bookcase, a leather sofa. The walls were bare and white. A red light flickered on and off above the front door. The beep was definitely coming from there.
              She dragged a chair from the dining set over and climbed up to inspect the smoke detector face-to-face. She could feel the plastic hub vibrating under her fingers with each beep. Luckily, it wasn’t the kind where you needed a screwdriver to take it apart. (She hadn’t thought to take any tools with her when she climbed across the balcony wall.) You just pressed a flap and it popped open.
              There were no batteries in the compartment.
              Her heart squeezed in her chest, blood pounding in her ears. She was crazy. She was really crazy.
              Behind her, the bedroom door swung open. She whirled around teetering on the chair and nearly falling.
              And she saw them.
              “I’msorryI’msorryI’msorry! I’m not a house breaker, I promise! I haven’t taken anything. Oh my god, your face…”
              Unable to turn around or break her gaze, she stepped off the chair, kicking it out of the way, and fumbled with the door. Even though it was the mirror image of her own, she couldn’t manage to unlock it.
              Somewhere far away, the elevator dinged and the doors hummed open. Out in the hallway, steps pounded in her direction.
              “Help!” she called. “Can you hear me? I’m stuck! Call 911! Someone…”
              But her voice came out hoarsely, unconvincingly, as in a dream. It sounded like something on the television. After all, what was more likely, a tenant watching a horror movie, or a would-be house breaker getting trapped in another unit?
              After a brief pause, the steps pounded on down the hall and away. She cried out in despair, “No, don’t leave me! Don’t…get back, get away! Don’t touch me…don’t…”
#
Mira sat on her favorite bench in the courtyard, chatting busily into her iPhone, watching her four year old son as he zoomed around on his scooter. The child wore an orange safety helmet.
              From somewhere behind and above her, a cat was yowling and scratching at something. It was really quite annoying. This was supposed to be a middle class complex. People really shouldn’t be allowed to have pets.
              “Look at me!” her son yelled, before going back to his undirected whee-ing.
              “Yes, lovely,” she called back. “No, go ahead. How much for organic chicken? You’re kidding…”
              Somehow, she had the impression she had heard that same cat—or maybe other cats—recently. But as soon as the idea occurred to her, it faded before the urgency of the BOGO at WholeFoods and when she would next be able to get over there.
              Behind her the sound of scratching intensified. Then there was a rattling as of a screen door sliding open. The yowling stopped. A few seconds later the bushes crashed, as if an object the size of a small animal had dropped from the second floor balcony.
              The cat peeked out cautiously from underneath the branches, but the human of the bench kept making irrelevant noises, oblivious. After hissing at the small human when it came too close, the cat padded off to search for small birds and rodents.
#
“Hello? Community management? Yeah, there’s an alarm going off in the room above me. Like a clock or something. It goes off, stops for 15 minutes, and then starts again…Yeah, I tried banging on their door a bunch of times but no one answered. Their cat was super loud last week too…I think you should fine them…No, that’s not good enough. I will seriously deal with this if you don’t…

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Evolution of Open Mindedness

This series of statements shows the progression of a closed mind to an open one. Pick your own jumping off point.

1. "The X are so stupid! They don't even know 2+2=4!"

2. "Actually, the X are as good at math as anyone else."

3. "The X have had less access to math learning resources, so don't be so quick to assume they're stupid for not knowing math."

4. "The X have an alternate, equally valid, numbering system in which 2+2=5. Both answers are 'correct.'"

5. "2+2=4 is an oppressive system used to elevate the privileged white male! Anyone who says 2+2=4 is wrong!"

6. "The Z are so stupid. They actually think 2+2=4!"

I'm around a 3? I think? When I start running into 5s and 6s I know I've spent too much time on the internet.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

I'm writing a story

I'm writing a horror story based on an experience I had a few weeks ago with a smoke alarm that wouldn't stop beeping in the unit next to mine. If the story turns out okay, I will post it on here.

I already made a Youtube video summarizing what happened because I thought that might be funny.


Wednesday, September 13, 2017

I'm Not Strong

I decided to stop comparing myself to other people. I've always had trouble carrying heavy things or with too much physical exertion. I usually get tired in the middle of the day even if I got 8 hours of sleep the night before. I have a lot of trouble falling asleep if there's any noise or if I'm stressed out about something. I get cold very easily. My digestion is not good.

Other people don't get back and shoulder pain carrying a laptop in a backpack. They can go all day on 6 hours of sleep or less. They only need one jacket if it's cold. I don't know what it feels like to be those people. I wonder if they feel like I do and they just don't cut themselves any slack. But sometimes I wonder if they would be shocked if they felt what was going on inside my body.

Either way, there is no point in making myself miserable by trying to live up to a made-up standard of what humans should be able to do. Even if someone else wouldn't be bothered by the pain that takes me out, it's still really bad pain to me. It doesn't benefit anyone if I don't take care of myself.

But I also plan around my energy levels. If I make a promise then I won't schedule personal things that might wear me out and interfere with my ability to be there for another person. Unless I get sick suddenly, which can't be planned for, I will show up. There are time when I need to push myself for the sake of someone else, but that's different because it's hurting myself for a reason, not from refusing to accept my real abilities.

So that's why I won't feel bad for needing more sleep and not being able to do as much as other people. Doing that doesn't benefit anyone and it would only lead to me crashing from exhaustion harder and more often.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

My little shorn lamb

Today Mom came over and helped me clip Cooper's wings.

Cooper is very tame and he hasn't had clipped wings in at least 10 years. (Yes, he is quite a geezer now.)

The reason I decided he needed a trim was because he has recently been moved from a large house to a small apartment. He also is living with another bird for the first time ever.

It seems like there is bird behavior where if one takes off for whatever reason, the other wants to take off too, especially if they are close together. For Teka (the budgie) this isn't really dangerous because he is smaller and able to turn and avoid the walls. Cooper, on the other hand, has a naturally bigger wing span and has trouble turning in time when he is in a panic. He sometimes crashes into the wall and hits his head or his wing. He's even started bleeding on his nose after hitting the wall.

The solution I decided on was clipping Cooper's wings so he can't get as much speed when he starts flying. (I'm hoping he will gradually get calmer in the future. Another thing I could have done was not let both birds out at the same time.)

His feathers will grow out again in a few months, but by then he might be more comfortable with his new home and buddy and not be as quick to panic. We only clipped off about two inches of the outside two feathers on both wings. You can see his wings in this picture.



 Cooper still has 90 percent of his wing mass and can fly for short distances. He just can't get the same height and speed. Since Cooper loves walking and climbing around, limited flight is not a tragedy for him. He'd much rather ride on a human anyway.

The clipping did not hurt him because there were no arteries or veins in the feathers we cut. It was like giving a haircut to a nervous toddler. Cooper was not a fan of being held and having his wings stretched out and then trimmed, but a few minutes later he was back to his normal self.

I don't believe that clipping a bird's wings is mean to the birds. A pet bird like Cooper or Teka doesn't need to fly from predators. If you let a bird vet clip your bird or follow a guide, you won't hit any of the "blood feathers" that have an artery, so your bird won't feel any pain. Clipping only two (at most four) feathers on each wing will not rob a bird of all its flight power. It will just keep them from flying too fast and hurting themselves. This is some basic information about wing clipping, so if you still don't think it's a good idea, that's fine, but don't try to tell me wing clipping permanently maims a bird or anything like that.

And other people don't want to clip their bird's wings at all, which is fine. In my experience tame birds on the whole don't need it. I wouldn't have clipped Cooper's wings if I weren't worried about him literally giving himself a concussion or breaking his own wing.

Right now Cooper is wandering around on his playpen eating old seeds. Cooper, お元気で!

Monday, August 14, 2017

Sub or Dub?

This is a post I might include as a page on my final project for school.



Sub or Dub?

…It depends?

It depends on the person and it depends on the series.

There are some people who never feel comfortable reading text and watching the action at the same time, whether it’s on a small computer or a large movie screen. They will probably prefer dubbed versions.

Other people can't stand watching dubs of live action because the lip movements never quite match up. But they’re fine with dubs of animation where characters only have a few distinct mouth shapes and the voice actors can match the timing and the lip movements exactly.

I’m lucky to be the kind of person who is always writing in a journal, typing, or doing a craft while watching a movie. People ask me “Are you really watching the movie?” I am. I like doing stuff with my hands and can look back and forth between two places quickly. So reading subtitles isn’t hard for me.

You should go with the language version you’re more comfortable with.

Sometimes dubs add something really unique and creative to an anime series. For example, Baccano!, which takes place in 1930s America, all the characters have appropriate Chicago, New York, or Southern accents. And it’s hilarious. The regional dialect is lost in the Japanese version.

However, sometimes the dub is simply not up to quality. Characters sound robotic and wooden, or voices just don’t match characters. If a good dub isn’t available, you should go with the original even if that’s not your preference. Listing to grating voices won’t enhance your enjoyment of a series.

There are also some benefits to watching the Japanese version of a series. Language isn’t just utterance. It’s also facial expression and body language—and the gestures unique to the animation style. Japanese body language is not the same as American body language.

For example: as one friend pointed out to me, most Japanese vocalizations come from back in the throat and don’t require detailed lip and cheek movements. This is why Americans seem “expressive” to Japanese, while Japanese seem a bit “wooden-faced” to foreigners. The difference translates into animation style. You’ll notice that in ordinary conversation character faces don’t tend to move much—until they explode into overdramatic chibi style!

So for me, when characters have what seems like an obviously Japanese expression or pose, hearing English coming out of their mouth gives me this weird feeling of disconnect. Seeing a character say “I’m in your hands” feels wrong when I know they should be saying  よろしくお願いします. Some things just can’t be translated. However, I also know Japanese and have lived in Japan, so for someone else these moments might be invisible.

Whether people prefer subs or dubs is determined more by how they process information and their language background than whether or not they are a “real fan.” If you like dubs, you are still getting the real experience of anime and you’re appreciating the hard work of the English-speaking voice actors. No reason to kill your eyes for a hobby.  If you like subs, you get to experience a medium in a different language from your native one. Go you!

This is my opinion on subs and dubs.