Sunday, March 18, 2018

Persistence, Physicist Passings and St. Patty's Day

The word of the week is gormless.

March 12 - Rinse and Re-Pete

Another "No thanks, we declined to choose you" email came today at work.

It was an especially damning one, as a trainer for my current office that I felt I was well-suited for and for which I'd carefully crafted my application letter.

Nope. Didn't even make it into an interview, thanks-so-much-for-applying... 

Despite the bone-deep weariness of yet another 'Nah...' in a year without a single interview, I've been here before, and I'm refusing to dwell on my 'failures'. Rather, I'm sticking out my chin and getting feedback on every Not You, Sorry response. Nobody's going to get me out of my current job except me, though I'm fighting the feeling that nobody cares about my current position either, at that.

That's a hard one some days: am I really capable of getting a new position, or just fooling myself, given my lack of specific skills and experience?

I do all of these...

It seems every day I am also reminded that things could be worse. I see people on the street here who are obviously having a rougher time of life than me, and still going on. I saw a severely disabled man in an impeccable suit putting one bad foot in front of the other, moving his canes with a curious grace to move through the sidewalk crowds, and I wondered how he dealt with his daily challenges... and if I would have it within me to show the face I saw today to the world.

I wondered if he's ever felt like he was just marking time, like I do?

March 13 - Watch this!

Ah, calculator watches... how I miss you.

Since I could first wear watches, I'd always wanted the high-tech ones, with all sorts of graphs and meters on their LCD faces. Once I'd got a bit older and realized that most of those watches were sports-centric timers, my interest turned to watches that were mini-computers, storing and manipulating data - cool!

Of all the watchmakers in the 1980's and early 90's, Casio was far and away the best at creating innovative watches. Incorporating calculators and data storage, they predated the rise of PDA's and much later smartphones, which is why I loved Casio so much. Here's a small sample of some of their watches from that era:

Top left was mine!

I had a few calculator watches, but my favourite by far( which I still have )is my Casio DBC-150 Databank, which has a TON of useful features that I used daily: a timer to multiple alarms to a segmented scheduler to storing phone numbers and a dozen others at least - here's a brief video going over some of those:

The functions of the Casio DBC150 meant I could keep most of what I needed of a day on my wrist while in school or working; the schedule and phone numbers were especially handy as I could store a combination of 150 of the two, hence the model name. There were more expensive versions that held far more numbers, or had touch-sensitive screens, but the DBC150 did all I needed until the era of full-colour PDA's... and even then, I still wore my trusty Casio well into the early 2000's.

That's a long time for a 'simple' calculator watch to last!

March 14 - Losing Hawking and Pi

Today's 'g33k holiday' of Pi Day took on a somber note with the loss of preeminent physicist Stephen Hawking, who passed at the age of 76.

Along with many others, I have long held him in the highest esteem for several reasons: his incomparable brilliance of intellect, his indominable will, and his sense of humour all spoke to me about the best of the human condition, of what we CAN be if we choose to be that way.

You likely already know about his intellect, on a par with the greatest of human minds such as Einstein and Newton, Hawking's brilliance showed at an early age, and only grew with time. It was undimmed by the progression of the disease that wasted his body away, ALS, which by all odds should have killed him in his mid-twenties. His determination to survive, along with excellent medical care and a good bit of luck in how the disease progressed meant he spent fifty years longer than anyone expected on this earth... for which humanity benefited. If you're not sure exactly what Hawking contributed, have a gander at this:

Yet it is the retaining of his remarkable sense of humor despite being trapped in a body no longer under his control that remains so astonishing, and inspiring, to me. His wit and enjoyment of life blazed like a star even from his wasted frame, and that is something I hold tightly to when my own dark days threaten to overwhelm me: to find the humour in life, no matter what, and to laugh when you want to cry. Also to Never Give Up:

It is with sincere thanks that we bid farewell to Dr. Stephen Hawking, who more than earned his place at this table of history:

March 15 - Are You Ready?

Years ago, I used to fall asleep reading.

Yet I haven't been able to for at least a decade or more, as the light I needed to see kept me awake; for a while now I've kept things low-key, using red lights and screen-colour filters on my devices to keep my biorhythms happy as bedtime neared.

Still, the need to fall asleep to a story has never left me, which is why last year I started to listen to audiobooks on Audible before bed. This has the advantage of letting me set a timer, and also gives my eyes a rest, as they've still been twinging of late after a long day - I've made an appointment with the eye doctor again this week.

For the last month, I've been listening to Ready Player One, narrated by Wil Wheaton, who does a great job. As a bonus, there's something about the tone and cadence of his voice that lulls me to sleep most nights, which helps.

This is my fave 'variant' RPO poster by far!

The movie adaptation of Ready Player One comes out in two weeks time, and I'm chomping at the bit to see it, as Steven Spielburg is directing: from all accounts, he's pulled out all the stops visually and the story closely adheres to the book. Unfortunately, given the 'nostalgic' nature of the story, there were a TON of licences that had to be secured from hundreds of intellectual properties, and a few were missed, of which Star Wars is the biggest omission. Apparently Disney just wasn't willing to play ball, which is their loss, especially given the furor with which the latest Star Wars films have caused from their 'new direction' taken.

SPOILERS BELOW: if you've already read RPO, then the video below won't spoil anything and it's SO DAMN GOOD, a homage to the 8-bit 80's set to music from the band Gunship, who'd I'd never heard of until now but will be checking out ASAP:

March 16 - Vomiting Cash?

Money's still tight for me in 2018, but I'm managing to stay afloat, with some help.

As I've already noted above, getting a better-paying position of just a few hundred dollars more a month would make ALL the difference to my finances, but that's been a year of banging my head on a plexiglass ceiling.

I suppose I could always go looking for Ambergris( whale vomit )on the beaches nearby, as I live only a short walk from the seashore, but that's a needle-in-the-haystack chance. I suppose if I spent the time I would be writing on the beach instead every morning and evening, I guess I'd improve my chances, but I'd be removing any chance of my actually finishing my novel.

Then again, at around $50,000 USD / kg, it would pay a lot more - hmmm.

This train of thought also led me to an older recurring thought I've had:

How much money IS there in the world, more or less? Answer: lots...

March 17 - Not-ComiCon

There's a comic convention in town, but I'm not going.

Capital City Comicon is taking place this weekend here in Victoria, but I'm not planning to attend, for a few reasons, first and foremost being cost: I need to save money, and even if I just attended for the $35 Saturday pass, what's the point of walking around in the crowds and window shopping without being to get any of the cool stuff? I was in much the same situation when I went to Arizona in 2013 on a shoestring budget so tight that I got back home with $2.00 to my name, with a week to go until my payday. I did budget $40 USD to buy something and I found some stellar Star Wars posters by Ant Lucua( signed! )so I didn't come home empty-handed... but I walked by so much cool stuff that I'd have loved to have, but couldn't bear to stop to examine further because it hurt to pass it by.

Secondly is health: I'm still not in any shape to spend a few hours on my feet, especially in a crowd: while my anxiety seems to have gone dormant, I'm in no hurry to test that, given the stress I'm still operating under right now.

Also at CCCC is, of course, cosplay. Which, to be honest, I can do a better job of seeing online thanks to the magic of social media than wandering around in person. I'd love to attend in-costume, but given that the only costume I have( my  Aliens USCM from 2 years ago )still isn't what I consider finished( and the rifle's malfunctioning, too )there's no point, as I'd just overheat - I don't want that.

Instead, I'll just dream about the costumes I might create at some balance-point in the future, like this one:

My dream cosplay - SOUNDWAVE!!!

Inspired by the above cosplay, I messed around online and stumbled across the perfect voice changer to make Soundwave's voice! Called RobotVox, this simple free Android app is the closest I've ever heard software come to synthesizing the unique wavetones of everyone's favourite Decepticon - cool!!!

Now all I need to do is get every other aspect of my life together so I can get to work on creating a costume to go with the voice - no sweat, right?
- - - 
In the late morning today, my lady and I met our friend Roz at the Victoria Butterfly Gardens, where we spent a nice few hours wandering around the lush greenery inside, marveling at the hundreds of insects roaming free. There were also turtles, parrots, beetles and even flamingos! Check out some of the amazing pictures:

See my FBook profile for the full album!

We then lunched at the excellent and eclectic Zanzibar Cafe nearby, which we'll be visiting again soon, to be sure, as they have a stunning rear outdoor patio - the place is a hidden gem!

In the late afternoon I spent a few hours at Sookjai, writing my blog, before heading out to the 5th-annual St. Patrick's Day Extravaganza at my co-worker Jen's place with my lovely lady Michelle. We arrived when it was quiet, spent a few hours chatting people up, including a rousing conversation about world economies, AI, UBI and similar high-level topics, then left as things got louder, as is our usual SOP.

March 18 - Uplift

Today was a 'Perk Peter Up' day, which I appreciated!

My lady and I started off with a late breakfast at the Hawk and Hen, which we've come to love as it's never crowded and the food is excellent. We then scooted north to wander around the Glendale Gardens, again with our friend Roz. I was particularly taken with the Japanese gardens and their bonsai trees, for the way tha nature is encouraged to grow within the greater plans of the gardens, but not trimmed to within an inch of its life like a traditional English garden would be:

Relaxing and zenlike...

As we'd had a late breakfast, we skipped lunch to head into town to meet with other members of Victoria Verse to talk poetry for a few hours inside the mostly-tranquil Atrium. I got to read my old winter poem The Snow Queen, which was well-received, and the others there shared some of their excellent work that I provided a few pithy comments on here and there; good times. My lady and I left a few hours later to kick back on the patio at Moxie's down the road, where to my delight I discovered they had Granville Island Maple Cream Ale on the menu, which I haven't been able to find in years locally! We chatted about all sorts of subjects under the sun, literally, just enjoying the semi-balmy weather as we had the patio to ourselves, and not wanting the day to end as the sun dipped lower...

I was SO happy to discover this again - delicious!

Mission successful: Peter was most definitely smiling by sunset!

It's a short 4-day workweek for me, and I'll be plugging away at editing my novel among other things, including( I hope! )having my GlowForge shipped to me. Tally-ho!

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Wandering into Wealth, Water and Weekend Adventure

The word of the week is gallant.

March 4 - Missing Out

How different things could be...

Here's an example of what I might be doing right now, if my finances were all in order and the rest of my life was exactly the same: I'd have 'disposable income' that I can spend on things like vacations, a house of my own...

Or collectibles, like this magnificent beast:

Length: 49.35" Width: 14.64" Height (to top of sails): 17.01" Weight: 13.89 lbs

Now, at a whopping $499.99 USD, it's a LOT to swallow, but as THIS article shows, for the most part collectibles are proving to be sound investments for the future. Obviously, any that Fictional Financially-Soluble Me might get would be removed from box at least once and put on display... if not surreptitiously played with once or twice - for testing purposes, of course.

However, in the case of the above-mentioned Sail Barge, it looks like things have stalled at the halfway mark, with only 2468 of the 5000 backers necessary to bring the barge from prototype into full production.

Which is a shame, as it's the one toy that I'd always wished Hasbro( or Kenner, at the time )had released. It would have cost $200 in 1982 dollars, which compared to the $47.99 cost of the most expensive Star Wars toy at the time, the AT-AT( which I always wanted but never received )there's no way that the Sail Barge could have been released in the 1980's for anything approaching affordable prices.

It would be gratifying to see the Sail Barge make it into production this year, but even if it does, there's no way I'll be able to afford one... either now, or when they inevitably hit eBay for resale. 

Besides, I'd need a house with a third room just to display it in!

March 5 - The Lucky Rich?

Well, then: I don't feel so bad... about being 'smart' that is: apparently, it's jsut not enough to garner success all that often.

A new scientific study shows that the difference between failure and success for the most part comes down to luck, in taking opportunities as they present themselves... which is kind of depressing, as it jives with another article I read recently which comes to much the same conclusion.

What my takeaway from both articles is that the successful person has to be ready to recognize opportunities as they present themselves AND act upon them saliently: hindsight does you no good whatsoever when it comes to success.

So for me, 2018 is about the preparation: getting my hard work done, while keeping a weather eye out for any opportunities that present themselves. In the main, I think that will apply to a better GVT position, but who knows?

I might get lucky.

March 6 - Dreaming...

My dreams are boring.

As I've mentioned before, my imagination seems to run a kind of 'recharge cycle' at night, where instead of visiting fantastic worlds and spaceships, I wander around a mishmash of images of houses, shopping malls and the like.

It's weird, but that's my brain: doing the unexpected, all the time.

However, if it means that my daytime conscious-thought imagination is free to wander the wide spectrum of the universe, I'll take the trade-off. Dreaming of far-off worlds and futures is what I hope to make my bread-and-butter, sooner rather than later, and it means that my dreams are boring, then so be it.

Part of my future also doubles financial stability, and today I came across this excellent guide on how artists( especially writers! )can set themselves up to be self-supporting. In combination with this excellent article about writers finding financial success while balancing day jobs, I'm continuing to add to my working knowledge of how to make a living through the written word instead of working for somebody else...

That's the future I want to make real, instead of just dreaming about it.

March 7 - Blackadder

This week, I decided to laugh.

For various reasons, I was feeling down, so I searched through YouTube for something to watch at work while doing my usual paper-pushing... and I found the perfect solution: Blackadder!

I'd watched some of the original broadcasts on PBS and a few reruns here and there since( my parents were big British Humour fans )but I'd never sat down to watch the entire series through... which wasn't a huge task, seeing as there were only 6 episodes in each of the four seasons.

So that's what I did this week: I laughed my way through work.

Blackadder's a show that touts the triumph of wit above all else, even if it's only to lament the lousy luck that the titular antagonist finds himself at the mercy of time and again. Yet the highlight of Blackadder for me has always been the insults, which are some of the best and most memorable of any comedic creation - enjoy!

March 8 - New Neverwinter!!!

As mentioned briefly in a blog post last November, a new NWN update is coming!

What I didn't know until today is just how GOOD it's going to look:

As I mentioned back in November, I don't expect to have much time to go poking around again in NWN for a good part of 2018, but it's something I would like to do again before the end of the year. The enhanced graphics will go a long way to making the game feel less dated, and the online community will likely grow strong again with a single, integrated platform designed to foster connections between players and servers. That there's going to be some fun places to explore again, once various servers get their systems updated to work with the new Enhanced Edition, and I'm excited to go exploring again out there.

Neverwinter Nights is, after all, the best online adaptation of Dungeons And Dragons ever made! The question is though...

From 2011... and I stopped playing her in October of 2010. Retired, really.

Will Nich ever go home again?

March 9 - Dehydration Tension?

More water seems to have eased my troubles this week.

In looking at why I was getting such burning pains in my left leg, I wondered if I was still not getting enough water. I usually drink about a liter and a half of water from dawn to dark in the course of a day, but on Monday I checked on how much I might actually need, given my own individual variables.

I went to and plugged everything in, with this result:

As it turns out, I needed to almost double the amount of water I'm taking in, so I added another 750ml bottle to my day bag to take along. I resolved to finish the first bottle by lunch, and the second by dinner, following up with a couple glasses of water after dinner for good measure... but not much after 8pm, so I won't have to get up more than once during the night.

Five days later, it seems to have worked: the burning pain in my left leg muscles haven't returned, and I feel a little more... balanced, if that's the word? Going to an emergency massage session Monday night likely helped as well, but I'm going to keep up my water-doubling for the future to see if that helps ease my muscle tension even further.

It's odd how I thought I was drinking enough water each day, but as it turns out, I wasn't paying close enough attention and wasn't. Add it to my List Of Daily Things To Do and move on...

March 10 - Adventure Time!

Today was a welcome break from the regular march of time...

My lovely girlfriend surprised me by taking us on a day trip up-Island, driving out of Victoria in the late morning under incredibly sunny skies: perfect day trip weather!

We headed up the Malahat Highway, wending our way higher and higher up the sides of the steep hills among the towering stands of Douglas fir and stopping twice at look at points to get some incredible pictures:

We stopped at Merridale Cidery & Distillery in Cobble Hill for lunch, less than an hour's drive later. We arrived just in the nick of time, as the place went from mostly empty to completely full within 10 minutes of our choosing a table by the front door. We enjoyed a 'sampler pack' of half a dozen ciders before our food arrived, finding that only one was really not to either of our tastes. We lingered somewhat over our meal, as it was fairly easy to talk inside compared to the quite-loud enclosed deck. We then took a quick look around the grounds, and it looks like a place we could spend more time exploring in the future:

A short distance up the road later, we found ourselves at Shawnigan Lake, and took up a stout table at Shawnigan Coffee to enjoy some post-lunch beverages and chocolate truffles! I also picked up two wonderfully-large banana walnut muffins to take home, each of which was bigger than my fist:

The trip back was a lovely wind-down( literally, in the last parts )to the day, and I'm deeply grateful to my lady for suggesting we adventured today, as it's one of the most relaxing things I've done in at least a year...

March 11 - Kindness

As I was leaving brunch today with my lady, the subject of kindness came up, one that I've been thinking about this week, as it happens.

Why be kind?

This is an interesting and salient topic to me, in that I view myself as a giving person, rather than one who is more self-interested. Over the years, I've come to see human social interaction as one of the cornerstones of our rise from barbarism, despite our violent tendencies. It's our ability to give of ourselves and to put others first that allows us to work together to achieve greatness.

While it's long been know that being kind is also good for you, science has only recently been able to quantify some of the reasons why... and they're good ones, unsurprisingly. I believe that in life, it's the little things that count: they add up, in ways that you might be totally unaware of yet profoundly affect the lives of others:

Now, go on out there and be kind to one another! 

The sunshine, time change and warmer weather will go a long way towards getting my energy back in the next few weeks, I think. I can already feel a change in the air! Also, writing tonight's blog took a little longer, as I did it all from scratch with no copy/pasting... which seems to have done the trick, as it looks precisely the way it should with NO after-edits needed due to rogue code. Sweet!