Sunday, 22 November 2015

Relief, Review and Relaxation

The word of the week is ecstatic.

Nov 16 – Stress Relief

Over the course of my day, I went from highly-stressed to smiling-blissed.

In the service of fixing up my finances this month, I've had several appointments with various places talk about various plans for my future. The biggest one was with my former primary bank of 20 years and I've been awaiting word from them for a week now, not helped by the banking holiday last Wednesday. It's been stressful just waiting around for word to arrive.

Today, after lunch I received a phone call, that told me to make another phone call to talk about options and I fretted all over again: would what I want to be possible?

After work, outside the downtown library in the late afternoon growing darkness, I made the phone call. I wandered around in a circle in front of a window, phone clutched to my ear as I spoke to a lovely lady named Margaret, who was perhaps the nicest person I've spoken to about finances in the last 10 years, even including my more recent forays into credit unions.

By the end of the phone call, I was all smiles and my knees were admittedly a bit wobbly: what I wanted was in deed possible and have been made to happen, helped in no small part by the smart choices I've made over the years to keep my nose clean and persevere no matter what. The smaller progresses I have mentioned since coming to BC( as well as all the setbacks )pale in comparison to this major step. Apologies that I can’t be more specific, but I don’t want to disclose too much personal info, despite this being a personal blog - it is on the internet, after all.

What all this double talk and insinuation means is that my monthly costs have now dropped significantly, to the tune of having about half a paycheque freed up on a regular basis if I play my cards right. Since I've been bleeding money for a few years now every month, this is a hugely significant step forward for me financially and I'm determined to combine this progress with the arrival of my Glowforge in the New Year to put myself firmly in the black for my future.

I slept supremely soundly tonight.

Nov 17 – Improvement By Degrees

I've been trying to eat better lately.

After the weird digestive experience I had a few days ago with a deep-fried fish dish on a patio, I've kept away from anything similar as well as cutting out any remotely greasy dishes from my diet. I haven't had a hamburger in over a year, with the same going for hotdogs as well as super-sugary desserts, soda pop or fast food in general. Organic foods of all kinds including salads, soups and simpler sandwiches have all been the order of the day for me and for the most part, my stomach has been settled - stress again can have an effect on that of course and I've been under a lot for the last month or so, as noted in yesterday's entry.

What I would like to do is to get more exercise as well as eat better, but that's been a little bit harder to do with whatever's going on with my leg muscles. A visit to a specialist a few weeks ago didn't turn up any answers and for the next while, I'm just going to take it easy, as even some normal-seeming stretches in in about of a day can lead me feeling like I've pulled muscles in my legs to the breaking point. Needless to say, riding a bike around town at full gallop - or even a casual glide - isn't the best idea right now until I get a handle on whatever's going on down there.

On the other hand( pardon the pun )my wrists seem to be hanging in there overall, with only the occasional strain-pain when I carry something too heavy for too long or do too much repetitive work at my day job. I still can't type for more than 20 or 30 min. of the time, but at least the pain is now at ‘uncomfortable’ levels instead of ‘it hurts for a few days to a week afterwards’ which is an improvement of sorts.

Apart from figuring out some sort of exercise program that doesn't involve using my arms or legs overmuch, perhaps I should look into volunteering for the first human brain transplant into an android body…

Nov 18 – T3ch Updat3

Non-g33ks can skip this entry, if you wish. J

There's been a few things, tech-wise, that I've added to my daily life for the last year and for one reason or another haven't updated my blog about - until now.  

My Pebble Time smartwatch has been a fantastic purchase overall, proving flexible and quite valuable on a regular basis to making my day easier. Apart from the usual functions of telling time, checking the weather and controlling my music on the way to work / home / wherever, I've been discovering what else I can do with it. I have to say that playing games on it is difficult for the most part, as the button layout( being on the sides ) isn't conducive to gaming, where controllers have much more ergonomic placement of their buttons. 

What is useful are the many customizable apps, which let me add things like flexible timers, GPS nav apps, battery monitors and the like, depending on what I'm up to that week: I can just add or remove things at will from my phone. Being able to see notifications on my wrist from various apps, like Facebook, Email and SMS is so much easier than pulling out the phone, unlocking it and getting into the programs to see much the same thing. I think the feature on the Time that I appreciate the most is the ability to reply to text messages by voice, again far easier and much more efficient than tapping them out by hand.

My OnePlus One smartphone has been almost as good a purchase, though with some glitches that slightly mar the overall experience: it will randomly reset a couple times a week for no reason that I can determine and the phone does get rather hot when doing too much at once or charging for too long. Apart from those minor gripes, the phone is everything I could want and I don't see myself replacing it for at least one more year, having got it a year ago in October. It is speedy, has plenty of storage( 64gb )and the full HD screen is gorgeous to look at it almost any light.

The third tech item is my Samsung Ultrabook, now upgraded with a speedy SSD drive and Windows 10. The combination makes it a joy to use, as I can just flip the lid open, use whatever programs I need to on the fly and close it again. It’s almost as fast as using my smart phone but with a larger screen and a keyboard for tasks better suited to such, like word processing.

On a final note, I did purchase another SSD drive( from AMD, on super sale! )for my desktop PC. My intent is to spend a few evenings next week installing Windows 10 from scratch on the drive, in order to bypass the unrecoverable Windows Update glitches on my Win7 OS on that system. Essentially what I'll be doing is creating a new computer image using Win10 and then installing all of my relevant programs, a process I am not looking forward to as it is time intensive but it will ensure that I finally have a glitch-free desktop PC I can play games on and use as my main media Center. It also means that I will lose quite a few free programs that I've downloaded over the years( courtesy of the amazing and BitsDeJour sites ) but I'm willing to make that sacrifice in order to have a full-usable machine after almost 2 years of glitchy operation.

/end T3chUpdate3

Nov 19 – Too much is how much?

What’s your caffeine of choice: coffee, tea or energy drinks?

Do you know what your daily limit is?

My consumption of caffeine through tea over the years has varied, from over a pot a shift on nights to one Timmy’s XL tea a day while writing my novel and back up to almost a full carafe a day at my current job. While the bitter-stomach acid effect of excess consumption is quite familiar to me, I was less aware of how caffeine itself in larger quantities was affecting my body.

By using the simple tool, inputting your caffeinated drink of choice and body weight, you can see what you're maximum ‘safe’ number of drinks per day is. I was quite surprised to see how low that number was, relatively speaking and a little disturbed at how close I've come to hitting it too often.

Reading up on the effects of caffeine withdrawal, I was heartened to see that apart from my minor headaches for a few days during my caffeine-free weeks in August, I had no other ill effects. It does worry me that I have been drinking more caffeine in the last month or so, so I have made conscious efforts to cut back what I drink per day and when I drink it. As I've said before, it's far too easy to add another cup of caffeine beverage or two without realizing it to your routine and if you don't keep an eye on things, all too soon you'll be shocked at how much you're consuming daily.

Stay informed, don't stay caffeinated.

Nov 20 – Happy Happy!

A glorious day off with my lady!

It seems almost scandalous to have a weekday off, all the more so because my girlfriend was able to take a vacation day today as well – time for a short road trip!

We started off by having lunch with my parents in Langford, which went very well. From there, my lady and I traveled to Butchart Gardens, located about halfway to Sidney. Today was the perfect day to go, as it was brilliantly sunny out and although colder than I'd like, still manageable with the proper clothing( including earmuffs ).

Another vantage to going on a weekday: there was almost nobody there!

We practically had the place to ourselves when we arrived in the early afternoon. There was a larger group ahead of us, so we detoured slightly and waited until we could barely hear them in the distance. It was a new experience to walk around the Gardens while surrounded by the quiet stillness of nature; the almost total lack of wind made it even more surreal.

We did make a stop at the merry-go-round, which has been complete for several years now. We were the only ones on it and I was surprised by how fast it went at top speed; my last experience on the merry-go-round was back in Ontario about 15 years ago and I certainly don't remember it going around fast enough to feel the wind in my hair, so the operator must have cranked it up as we were two adults and not kids. Exhilarating!

If winter does grace us with some snow in the next month, we'll be back to see the Twelve Days Of Christmas, which I saw a few years ago in the snow and have been looking forward to seeing again ever since. The Gardens are one of the few places I've been that I can say I really have experienced the magic of Christmas, fully apart from the crazy commercialism that seems to grip people this time of year. The beauty of the well-tended Gardens, combined with the careful lighting and seasonal decorations makes an experience like no other and I hope to see it this year soon.

Nov 21 – Twice the fun!

What's even better than spending an entire day with my lady? How about two?

As the weather was still quite bright and sunny, we decided to go for a drive today up island to the small seaside town of Sydney, a popular tourist destination and a place I haven't been recently.

It was a great drive, and we stopped on the way to briefly watch a few members of the Victoria Model Aircraft Society fly a few planes in the wonderfully clear sky at the Michell Airpark. One pilot was controlling a power glider, a large craft with graceful lines that soared in graceful circles around the thermals coming out from the surrounding farmland. What was intriguing was that the craft shared the sky with a large bald eagle, and the two played a gentle game of long-distance tag as they shared the sky. It made me regret not bringing my new camera with me in order to record the rare sight.

On arriving in Sidney, we started out by the waterfront and began our meandering. The very first shop we entered was an antique store with a huge selection of books taking up one wall. My girlfriend immediately sat down in front of the fairytale / folklore section, enchanted by the selection of titles while I wandered around, noting to my slight disappointment that they did not have any paperbacks or scifi / fantasy. Yet to my delight I soon discovered a huge tome of a book dedicated to the history of fighter aircraft: a 1994 edition The Complete Book Of Fighters, which weighs a massive 8 lbs and purports to be “An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Every Fighter Aircraft Built and Flown.” All that in perfect condition with a clear dust jacket protector for only $25 after tax – score!

Setting aside our finds behind the counter to pick up later, we continued our tour of the town's main street, stopping in at various shops to poke around wall the sun slowly slid across the sky. In another of the town’s ubiquitous bookshops( this one calledThe Haunted Bookshop" - Vancouver island's oldest bookshop )was another massive tome that was waiting for me: The Unabridged Mark Twain, with a foreword by Kurt Vonnegut Jr –for only $12.50! Having been an admirer of his for many years, I was  overjoyed to find this book to add to my personal collection for reference and sheer enjoyment.

We had a late lunch in a weirdly 1980’s-esque cafeteria, then browse to a few more shots before heading home for the evening after the sun had dipped below the far horizon( and made it far easier to drive back home without it blazing in our eyes! ). We spent the evening watching most of the second season of ReBoot, which my lady has taken an instant liking to - one more reason I adore.

What a fantastic day we had.

Nov 22 – Sunny Outlook

All this week, new fire alarms have been going into the apartments in our building as part of a modernization to bring the system up code. Each room now has an AC-powered smoke detector, linked to a high-decibel alarm with flashing light that is in turn linked to the building monitoring systems. When everything is complete, the concept is that alarms will be able to be determined per unit and if necessary the entire building can be alerted for evacuation. There was a similar system installed in the building where I lived in Bear Mountain a few years ago and I can't recall any false alarms going off. Unfortunately, the wiring installation for modern upgrades in old buildings leaves a lot to be desired aesthetically, as you can see by the plastic wiring runs and alarm-tech now 'gracing' our walls:

On an amusing note, as I was walking into the apartment this afternoon, one of the other residents stopped asked me how installation of the alarm system had gone, as they saw that my unit was one of the first to get one in the building. They were none too pleased to learn that it's far from pleasing to the eye, but it was another unrelated comments of theirs that raised my eyebrows, as it showed that you never know what other people are observing are thinking about you. He said ‘Hey, I saw that you have a girlfriend now, way to go buddy! How are things otherwise of late?” – this coming from a tough-as-nails married contractor.

I was a little startled, but I managed to mumble a coherent reply and we parted ways. I thought about what his comment meant and where it was coming from and in the end, I took it as a simple complement. He’s seen me around the place and we've talked about life in general over the couple of years that I've lived in the building, so he must have seen that I wasn't all that happy from time to time as well as never mentioning a lady in my life or being seen around the building with one on my arm.

It's funny how you never think about what other people are thinking about you when you're going about your daily life, at least those people who you don't have a regular interaction with. I was flattered, in a way, by his comment, as it shows that he'd taken an interest in my well-being enough to ask about how things were going, despite having no real connection with me apart from being neighbors. In doing so, he elevated himself from nodding acquaintance to friendly passerby as in, though I doubt that we'd ever go to get drinks in the same kind of place – I’d get beaten up in the first 5 minutes if I hung out at his choice of suds-serving establishment.

Doesn't really bother me, whatever he thinks; he seems like a decent guy and that's all that matters when you're being neighbourly. Nice of him to say something nice, I say!

It was a relaxing day of writing my blog, editing chapters for tomorrow’s critique group and generally just achieving various degrees of relaxation. My sister is doing the same thing, being out for the day after completing her months-long involvement with the local TED conference for this year that just wrapped up last night. We’ll both be a lot less stressed, for different reasons, after this weekend.