Sunday, November 1, 2015

Costumes, Comments and Cyber Commerce

The word of the week is gregarious.

Oct 26 – Deleting Negativity?

Today was about the power of words, which can harm and hurt so easily.

This blog, like always, is open to comments and one of my friends left a fairly detailed one in response to a single sentence from last week: the one about the noisy child in the theater.

I won't get into the details, as it's all water under the bridge, but they took exception to my expectation that I'd enjoy a movie at a theater full of young families with the possibility of so much noisy disruption. I admit I didn't expect it to be all that quiet during the film, but neither did I expect one to take their child to produce so much noise for so long without any decisive action on the part of the parent.


The comment, though not intentionally vicious, threw me into a emotional spiral which left me in a tizzy all day long. It made me question myself as a person, in terms of how I viewed other people, as well as how well I was doing in all aspects of my life recently. The lack of progress last week for my business, combined with other issues on my mind, meant that today's comment kicked me where it hurt and left me reeling in an emotional low, for almost the entire day.

Such are the power of words.

Fortunately, my own response-comment that I left, combined with the e-mail I sent my friend, allow me to fully explain myself so that he understood where I was coming from. I also was able to understand exactly where he was coming from and our communications meant we reached a mutual understanding amicably, without condemnation on either side for our actions.

Such is the power of friendship.

In a rare move, I deleted both comments from last week's blog, but only at the suggestion of my friend. As I said, it's now water under the bridge and it's not worth having it hanging over our heads: we both learned something today and I'm feeling much better now writing this entry that I did on  that particular day...


Oct 27 –Science Of Selling

Gadzooks– I sold my Amiga!

As I mentioned last week, I listed a few things on eBay this month to clear some space - about a dozen cubic feet or so, overall. I was hopeful that some of it would sell for what I asked, but I had no idea that my need I would go so quickly, even given the more-than-fair price I was asking for everything that was include. I've spent a fair bit on it over the years and I had a good idea what it was worth, even today, 20+ years after first purchasing it.


A lucky buyer jumped on it after only a day on eBay, using BuyItNow and paying immediately. I rushed around last night to pack everything into a large, sturdy box to send it to the states. All told, the box was as big as a mini fridge and weighed almost 60 pounds, necessitating some help this morning from my amazing girlfriend to wrangle it into a vehicle and down to the post office first thing before work. I was tickled that my estimate of its shipping costs were accurate to within one dollar given its weight and size – how’s that for accuracy given just a scale and a tape measure!

So I'm pretty damn happy, in that the buyer will get a lot of good use out of my still perfectly-working Amiga and I get some money out of the deal. There’s no way I would have been able to get any more use out of the machine, given how busy I am now and it makes me feel good that someone is going to give it a good home at last, instead of having such a great system languish unused in a few storage boxes.

I still have a large single lot of Amiga games for sale, as well as a few collectibles that have decent value, but even if those don't sell this week, I will count it as a success, especially as eBay's special offer this month was to let users list items without any additional fees added if they sold - in effect, I sold it for free!

How sweet is that, as a final note to my Amiga’s decades-long journey with me?


Oct 28 – Privilege

I’m not a fan of the 1%.

Actually, let me rephrase that: I'm not a fan of those people whose wealth makes them ignorant of how the rest of the world lives and works and functions in general. Having money should not mean that you become completely detached from the reality that most of the rest the world lives in, in terms of the value of a dollar.

That's why Donald Trump sticking his foot in his mouth this week is so poignant:


Everything is relative, I understand: the cost of a meal at a restaurant to me, while not exorbitant, would be beyond reach of some of this country's poorest people and while I don't eat out more than a few times a week, some people don't bat an eye at taking one or two meals a day out of their wallet instead of out of a brown paper bag.

Donald Trump probably doesn't even know what his groceries cost. Nor does he care.


Oct 29 – Costume Day!

It was a magic time at work today!

I wore a medieval outfit, cobbled together from several different outfits that I have purchased over the years. Unfortunately, one of them seems to have had a boot cover gone missing, so I had to improvise by wrapping a similar-colour belt around the other boot. I think it looks pretty good:


We had our usual contest at work and while I didn't win this year, I was told that I was a close second for the detail work I did, including the foam LARP sword that I wielded. I think next year all go high-tech again, using my phone( my new one, not my old broken Samsung ) in combination with the costume to create some sound or voice affects. I have yet to decide what I will do, however.

It'll probably have a cape though; I really like capes.

One thing I can't do anymore is indulge in these sweet treats that are part and parcel of the Halloween experience, at least for younger trick-or-treaters. While I nibbled on a total of one or two candies throughout the day, other people gladly dug into their candy bags throughout the day. It's funny how while I miss the experience, I don't crave the candies themselves anymore, even the ones that used to be my favorites such as Mars bars or peanut butter cups.

I think it's more about the experience now, of enjoying the costumes and stepping outside oneself to become someone else, for a little while at least - kind of like being an actor, I guess.


Oct 30 – Hot Water

Kettles are passé, nowadays.

Given how people keep getting busier every year, who has time to wait for water to boil? Not to mention keeping the kettle full, the mess it makes if it's not well-designed and the unfortunate tendency for one to run out of water if a few people want to have hot drinks of the same time.

Enter the countertop hot water dispenser - they're amazing!

I had one at work years ago, as part of the water cooler that the company provided in the employee area at the back the store. I loved being able to just pull the switch down and have instant hot water for tea or hot chocolate or soup… whatever you desired. No waiting!

While that sort of comedians comes at a fair premium of a price, if you are a careful shopper then you can get something similar for your home. A few days ago, I espied a 4-litre( a sizable capacity! )dispenser on sale at NewEgg.ca, and when I looked closer, I saw that the price dropped dramatically when you ordered two units: they came to only $35 each, with free shipping! So I grabbed a pair of them, fast, as the price seemed just too good to be true - most of the dispensers I had been looking at were at least 3 to 4 times that price!


Checking back today, I saw that NewEgg was sold out of the heaters – I had been smart to purchase them so quickly! When the units arrived today, I unpacked the one, setting it up easily within a few minutes and soon it was happily boiling water, finishing the full 4L in about 20 minutes.

A quick test confirm that the water was indeed gloriously hot and dispensed instantly from the spout at the push of a button – no more waiting for tea on a busy morning before work! My sister fell in love with the dispenser immediately, as she is a fan of hot soups and not having to wait for the water is especially valuable to her.

While more expensive units have timers and other features which this one does not, I did add a simple external timer to turn it off during the day and on again for a few hours once we're both home again from work, thus saving a fair bit of power that would be used to keep it hot all day unnecessarily. I'm really pleased with the purchase and I see it saving us both a lot of time.

Not to mention not costing us much in the first place!


Oct 31 – HALLOWEEN!

I don’t know why, but I’m really excited about Halloween this year.

Probably because for the last few years, I haven’t gone out on the actual night at all. Huh – that’s simple enough.

The day didn't start out so well though. It was raining heavily and since I was up early, thanks to the gusting noise outside, I decided to get some laundry started before anyone else this morning.

On my way to do laundry, I saw this:


Thinking quickly, I trotted back to my apartment( I can’t run, thanks to a gimpy knee tendon ) and grabbed an old oversized towel to stuff in the gap under the front door were all the water was flooding in. I then sat there to babysit the door until the superintendent could arrive, as anyone silly enough to enter through the front would let all the water gushed into the lobby instead of simply trickling through the towel as it was currently doing.

I ended up sitting there for almost an hour, as the super came and went to try and find pumps and or other paraphernalia. As it turned out, the drain grates at the front were simply blocked with leaves, a stupid oversight that apparently the rental company for the building knew about but hadn't taken corrective measures for yet - resulting in a costly flood.

Major disaster averted, I spent a good part of my day doing things around the apartment, some of them business related but most of them simply catching up from my week.

Dinnertime was a delicious pizza with my girlfriend, after which we headed out to attend a Halloween party in the North end of the city. She was dressed as a witch, whereas I had a rather different getup – check out these party pics:


While I thought my outfit was pretty obvious, only a few people got it right away. I would have thought the ‘I Heart Jar Jar’ tag or the Walt Disney Deathstar logo would have given it away, but perhaps it was a little too dark at the party for people to make the connection:



Also, in case you didn’t notice it, one of the images from the party collage is of a homemade electric chair( non-working! )complete with flashing LED lights when you throw the switch. Incredible! As you can see from the decorations, the hosts go all-out for Halloween and I have to say it was even better than last year…

Now, I’ll leave you with a classic, PLUS: ‘The Raven’ by E.A. Poe, read by… Christopher Walken!!


Nov 1 – Passwords!

When’s the last time you changed your passwords?

I change mine every 3-6 months, depending on the criticality of the password: my banking, Google and Facebook get updated more regularly than say, access to some online shopping sites. All the same, I consider myself pretty secure online, with long / complex passwords, two-step authentication and good data practices( not checking things like bank accounts over public wifi )to keep myself safe. It's especially good idea when you're in another city.

Which is why I was surprised to get THIS message this afternoon:


As October is National Cyber Security Month, I find it a little ironic that I received this warning message, but I’m grateful that Google’s systems know my login habits well enough to wonder what I was suddenly doing in New York, screwing up a password attempt. Seeing as I hadn't been in New York since October 2014, there's only one explanation: someone scooped some of my data while I was there.

Needless to say, I changed my password for that account immediately. I also double-checked some of my other accounts that I had used while I was in New York this time last year, just in case my brief time spent on public Wi-Fi had resulted in some of my data being captured that I was not aware of while it was happening. It could've been at a public coffee shop or perhaps while I was killing time at the airport; it's hard to say, as one doesn't usually keep track of such things.

Which is why it's important to have good data practices, so that you stay as safe as possible when you're not thinking about people trying to steal your data while you're getting on with your life. I'll rent a little bit more about this next week, but for now if you're reading this, think about changing some of your passwords if you haven't done so recently…


On another note, today marks that 8th year since my family and I moved to BC. It's had its up and downs, drama and disaster, but overall things are looking better now than they have in quite a few years. Personally, I'm doing much better than I was in Ontario and I'm hopeful that the other areas of my life will catch up soon.


It's been a pretty full week, which turned out really well, in the end: in addition to the wonderful Halloween celebrations, three out of four of my Clear-Stuff-Out-Of-My-Too-Small-Place sold on eBay, so I am really pleased! I'll have more room and some more money in my pocket, and some lucky people out there are going to get a hold of some really good things of mine that I cherished for many years. Going into November, I'm looking to keep things positive!