Sunday, 22 February 2015

Scary Samsung, Sunshine and Spring-Ish Signs

The word of the week is precipitous.

Feb 16 – Right Retirement?

It seems that my new job is even better for me than I thought.

According to a recent article at Workopolis, workers in the public sector are far better equipped to retire well then those working in the private sector, such as retail. While I was vaguely aware of the disparity between the two sectors, the article really brought it into focus for me.

That's a good thing, because retirement hasn't exactly been on my mind since high school. Many other things have been a priority, such that a friend of mine had to drag me into my own bank back in Ontario years ago just to finally sit down with someone about starting an RRSP.

It's good to have friends like that in your life. 

I'm planning to retire in about 25 years, somewhere in my 60s and still have a decent lifestyle. I'm not what anyone would call high maintenance, not a world traveler or a collector of Expensive Things. I don't have exotic hobbies like restoring old sports cars nor do I spend much time at all on Keeping Up With The Joneses.

All the same, retirement is firmly on my radar and I'm relieved to be finding out that I've made an excellent career choice for making my golden years comfortable ones. 25 years is a long way to go and while I am concerned with just myself at this point, you never know what the future will hold.

I'm hoping for a nice tropical island somewhere. Barring that, I'll take anywhere quiet.

Feb 17 – Reading Myself

It was another fabulous day off.

Not weather-wise, but just in overall getting-stuff-done-ness. It's been pretty gray here, but today should see the last of that as some sunshine moves into the area later this week. For all the gray skies, the air pressures been pretty steady and my head hasn't been affected much, which has been nice for a change.

I'm all abuzz about my second book!

This week I reformatted everything I've written to date for the first draft of Book Two so it could fit on as few pages as possible, allowing me to print off a copy for myself. I'm doing this to re-familiarize my brain with what I've written to date, making it easier for me to derive plot points for future chapters. I've also incorporated a few changes suggested so far by my critique group, shifting a few scenes around to better showcase story flow. It reads better, I do believe.

That's essentially what I was doing today, after spending the morning running my usual day-off errands. It was great to just kick back and dive deep into a world of my own creation, to pull up the metaphorical covers and block out everything else is a wonderful feeling.

Feb 18 – Tech Terror?

What do you mean, my TV is listening to me?

It’s one thing to buy some new tech with the expectation of being able to do things that you’ve never done before, but it’s another thing altogether to learn it’s doing new things on it’s own.

Such was the case for owners of Samsung Smart TV’s, when they learned this week that their TV’s have been listening to them. Televisions sold after 2012 included Voice Command features, which admittedly the set’s owners had to first turn on in order to use.

From there, things get a little worrying.

It seems that while the TV’s were happily executing their owner’s verbal commands to change channels, lower volumes and the like, they were also storing and transmitting what they were hearing to Samsung. Among other people.

That's not cool.

To add insult to injury, the data was ‘being sent in the clear’ meaning it was unencrypted text being squirted over the Internet for anyone to intercept. That's extremely not cool and after the story broke recently, Samsung was quick to jump all over how the security has been upgraded since the system was initially released. All the same: still not cool.

Thankfully, my television is not recent enough to have this feature and when I do plan to upgrade, I won't be activating it. There's enough personal information floating around as this and I have no desire to add any more things about me to the Internet's vast black hole of info. I don't watch my television using the channels but instead I utilize the PVR that came with my Shaw account; the TV stays on one Input and that’s that. Changing the volume or muting it with my voice might be nice, but I can do that just as easily with a remote at hand: nice and simple.

Hopefully my TV didn't just hear me say that.

Feb 19 –Signs of Spring?

Dang, but it's nice outside this week!

Living in Victoria, it's hard not to constantly take pictures this time of year that showcase green lawns, budding trees and flowers growing in gardens all over the city. Images like the one below are common, though this year the blooming has started close to a month earlier than usual:

I took these this weekend. I love this city!

Cool weather is the norm here in the city during the winter, with single-digit temperatures and cold winds blowing in from the Olympic mountains to the south. Rainy days alternating with the occasional sunny sky are a much better clime than Vancouver, which tends to suffer under an imbalance of more rain versus sunshine all year long.

Growing up in Niagara, I remember that when the snow occasionally melted, one was left with brown expanses of lawn everywhere beneath the bare-limbed trees. Here in BC, the widespread proliferation of evergreen trees coupled with the green lawns means that it rarely feels like winter save for the temperatures, which produce the occasional sheen of ice here and there.

I find it quite good for the soul, in that it feels like an early spring or late fall instead of a time of year when Canadians should be slogging through slush and snow going about their daily business. I especially appreciate that my parents, being older and more limited in our ability, are able to move around freely all year long without worrying too much about slipping in icy conditions.

Add a patio heater and the more hardy folk around here are out late into the evenings, enjoying the crisp fresh air with friends. My own sensitivity for feeling the cold in my limbs keeps me from doing the same, though only during the actual calendar-winter months here.

You can bet when spring arrives this year, likely early, I'll be outside far more often.

Feb 20 – Paring Down

There’s not much going on in my life right now, apart from the 2 W’s: writing and work.

To be honest, that’s not a bad thing.

As I’ve mentioned numerous times before here in this bloggy space, I need to focus. Not having a full social calendar, active hobbies or a romantic relationship means that I can pick and choose how I spend my hours outside of work and sleep each day.

There’s something to be said for that kind of freedom – for both good and bad.

Bad in that it’s easy to fall into bad habits, instead of forming good ones. Ever since I arrived in BC back in 2007, I've been conscious of not wanting to fall into a rut doing whatever it is that I'm doing from year to year. While my interest are many, they're mostly intellectual and not physical, in that I don't need to make time to paddle a canoe in the harbor or even fly a kite.

Well, maybe I should make time to go fly a kite; I used to enjoy that as a kid. But I digress.
Right now I'm in a unique position in life, in that my income is secured, I'm repaying my debts and my time is almost entirely my own. Perhaps this will sum it up best:

That's an image that's come up again and again in the last few years, probably for reason. When I first heard the line uttered in The Lord Of The Rings films, it resonated with me and I suppose it's been bouncing around the back of my head somewhere ever since. Because of that, I think now more than ever I've decided what I'm doing with my time:

I’m writing my way into a better future for myself.

Feb 21 – Sunshine! Flowers!

What a wonderful day!

Even though I don't sleep in( I haven’t in many years )with me waking up at around the same time every morning regardless of whether I have to work or not, today felt great because of one thing: nothing was planned. I didn't have to work and I can do whatever I wanted to.

Except be lazy; that’s not in my nature. Why waste a day when I’m not feeling tired or ill?

Apart from the usual chores, I was free to do what I pleased today after waking up from a late-night return home from a busy day yesterday. I went out for breakfast, sat on a patio with my face to the blazing sun while sipping the morning tea and did some wandering around downtown which brought me into a used bookstore and out again with a half-dozen novels I've not read. The sky was blue, there was no chill wind to speak of and the sidewalks were packed with smiling people out enjoying their day as well.

It was glorious.

The afternoon saw me sitting for quite a few hours on the patio in my usual spot at Moka House, headphones on to tune out the chatterboxes around me while I alternated between reading… er, researching and writing notes for my second book.

Incredibly, an idea coalesced on my way home for dinner, one that I've been waiting for for some months now to make its appearance. It was the final piece I needed to balance all of the various groups of characters in the second book, to make each of their struggles meaningful and relevant to the overall story. I was so happy I did a little jig on the sidewalk before I trotted home to jot down the idea. It just goes to show that I need to spend more contiguous time inside my world-creating headspace in order for good things to pop out as needed.

To my Muse, I say: more of the same to come, please!

Feb 22 – The Long View

It was an especially nice day today, most of which I spent reading the remainder of my second books first draft. Having let things sit for a few months has helped me to see the writing more clearly, as I suspected it would. I'll be rereading it again this week as I make more notes and delve more fully into plotting the next dozen chapters to be written shortly.

On an aside, I sat down and did a preliminary run through of my taxes today. To my utter surprise, it looks like I'll be getting a healthy return back this year, to the tune of almost 5 times last year's return amount! Now, considering how small last year's return was, relatively speaking, that's not to say I'll be buying a new television or anything, but it definitely brought a smile to my face today. One never knows, year-to-year, how tax return may go if you're not at the same job for that entire year earning the same wage at the same tax rate. Of course that means that too much tax was taken from me overall in 2014, but that knowledge will let me tweak things for 2015 so that they even out better. I'm definitely happy with today's math!

It's funny how I come up with things to write about, week to week. I'll have this or that pop into my head, sometimes writing ideas down and other times mulling things over before I decide if they're worth exploring further. It's interesting that each day contributes its own significance to my thoughts and sometimes those ideas that seem vital to explore one day are less than trivial the next.

All the same, I bear in mind that I've done what I think is a decent job these last seven years putting out my thoughts into the world without being repetitive for boring. I judge those last two factors by both the regular number of visitors I get and the regular lack of comments that the blog has week to week. One or two comments month is about average and for the most part I'm quite happy that the lurkers out there( that’s you, folks! )are enjoying what I'm writing here.

There's a hint of energy in the air here, with the sunshine and signs of an early Spring. It's invigorating to feel that, to see the sparkle in people's eyes as they walk around with their jackets open or in some cases absent entirely. Soon enough I'll be sleeping with the windows open again!