Sunday, 13 March 2016

Castles, Cats and Charging Up

The word of the week is temperate.

Mar 7 – Sleepless by Choice

Pets of any description can be a challenge sometimes.

With cats, apart from the usual hairballs, scratching and( hopefully not! )litterbox accidents, one has to bear in mind that they're very hard to break bad habits.

Last night, I was awake from 2am to 6am, trying to get the resident cat to form new habits that didn't involve yelling for food constantly from 12 AM to dawn.

Overall, I managed to get about 30 minutes of total sleep, with two hours before that and about an hour after dawn, for a total of three hours’ sleep that night. Needless to say, I was rather wiped out in the morning, but I think I was successful in enforcing the fact that 1) I wouldn't feed him any wet food matter how much he cried and 2) every time he cried, I put it back in his bed, for a total of three dozen times, by the end of which he was actually staying put for a while.

Success can be measured in small steps, and this was necessary major first one, well worth the loss of sleep my part as it kept the cat occupied but unfed. Considering that my sister has had consistently terrible sleep due to the cat's nocturnal noise for over year, this is something that's long overdue and she's not able to do what I just did or will again later in the week as necessary.

I consider it a minor superpower of mine, in that I can go with very little sleep every once in a while and still function at almost 100% the next day. It got me through a few difficult times during high school and university and I was pleased to see that my superpower was still effective to date.

On the flipside of the dead-tired coin, I had a great story idea today, inspired in part by one of Wil Wheaton's FBook posts - who knew? A nice bonus on top of the difficult night I spent.

Mar 8 – Bye-Bye Beer?

My anxiety seems to be leaving me in stages.

I haven't had any anxious episodes this week and I've been checking my heart rate far less of a day then I have in the past month, which I also take as a good sign. I haven't needed to focus on my breathing nearly as much and in general I've been getting on with my activities each day without anxious distraction.

Unfortunately, I seem to have developed a tic in my left eye as a side effect of my nerves, which I've had before( on and off )over the years.

It comes and goes at times and seems to be related to my anxiety, in that if I'm thinking too much or too hard, it appears for a few minutes. I don't think that it's anything serious at all and will eventually disappear the less I think about.

Beer also seems to be disagreeing with me these days, which is shocking. I've never been one to have a lot of alcohol hanging around in my place, chilled or otherwise, but there's usually at least one can of beer languishing at the back of the fridge for a few weeks at a time.

Yet of late, the usual beers I've had( Guinness or Dark Matter or Chocolate Porter )have all made me feel somewhat queasy, with even one making me feel as though I've had one too many. It's an odd sensation that I recognize, in that my body is rejecting the alcohol and I suppose that's because I really don't drink much at all anymore; a beer week is probably overestimating my consumption.

But it's for the best I suppose: if drinking makes me feel like crap, I should probably consider stopping altogether. I certainly don't need to trigger headache with a beer at the wrong time or put myself off by adding insult to injury when I am feeling nauseous - that just doesn't make sense.

I may just cut back, reducing my one beer from a pint to sleeve and sipping it to keep my body from rejecting it all together. I certainly won't be having more than two beers of an evening at this rate, the way that they've been making me feel lately.

It's a pity though: there's a lot of tasty beers out there.

Mar 9 – Shelter

It's the elephant in my room, so to speak: homelessness.

Having been through so many ups and downs in my life, I feel a little bit more qualified than some to speak about one of my chief worries over the years: homelessness. It's been something that's been in the back of my mind, like a shadow sometimes seen from the corner of your eye, and that too often.

Having had to walk away from the house I thought my family would be living in for many years to come due to financial stresses, I've had to find a place for my sister and I to live on short notice. And again a few years later when circumstances didn't work for where we were, and again when that too didn't work out. I ended up finding a place that was almost perfect to stand for over seven years after the last housing debacle, and then we all headed out to BC

I thought things would be different here in Victoria, but again difficulties arose due to finances and housing, to the point where I had to step in with my own savings to make ends meet or we'd have ended up on the street.

That was a low point, to be sure.

Victoria Tent City      Left: before    Right: last week

So sitting here, safe as houses all the wind and rain howl outside, I'm all too well aware of how fragile ones sense of security can be. Part of my anxiety of late has been my unavoidable knowledge that my funds, despite my current employment, would run low at the end of 2016 despite all my efforts. Then I would have to make some hard choices or potentially end up having to find a new place to live, one that would compromise heavily on space and comfort in the name of affordability.

My situation is not a dire one, compared to what so many people are dealing with when it comes to housing. I see people on the street here every day, trying to get on with their lives however they can while surviving with so little. My own stress, real as it is, pales in comparison to what they must endure every day and night.

Solutions are out there for homelessness, and I'll talk about them again soon. For now, I'm just going to remind myself yet again that while I may be able to see the abyss, it's not that much closer and there's many ways of going around it still.

Mar 10 – The Murricane

A while ago, I picked up a fantastic book but forgot to write about it here in the blog until now. Feast your eyes on this:

The Big Bad Book Of Bill Murray is something that I spotted in a local bookstore and immediately grabbed before anybody else could possibly purchase it! Ostensibly, it's an unofficial biography of the famous actor, listing all of his projects in alphabetical order as well as rating them on two separate scales: each of the future films in the book is rated for overall quality and a four-star Scale as well as including a Murray rating which creates each moving according to Murray's performance and its importance within his cinematic portfolio.

The book is a treat to read, considering that there's nothing else like it out there: there's no official biography and Murray's own 1999 autobiography Cinderella Story is hardly a comprehensive work. Sure, I could spend hours on the Internet scouring places like IMDB and filmography sites, but this gorgeous full-color book collects everything Murray in one place - what's not to love about it?

It's finding unexpected treasures like this that makes me believe that bookstores will never truly go away, despite the modern naysayers who insist that ebooks will dominate the literary scene in the near future. That's not an argument that I wish to get into, as I think each book format has its merits, which I myself have come to appreciate over the years. My recent attempts to get a larger tablet on which to read my e-books is a perfect example: I can take potentially thousands of books with me with almost no space needed, as long as I have an Internet connection or have downloaded them already to my device.

It's a brave new world out there, both for the old and for the new.

Mar 11 – Earned Day Off

What do you do with your days off?

My current( amazing! )job allows me to have every other Friday off, which is an amazing thing considering how many holidays and weekends I've worked at other jobs over the years. Not to mention the overtime, unpaid overtime and evenings, but I digress: it's great to have a set day off it's not a weekend.

It allows me to get things done, for one. I drove around today with my dad, spending time with him while we went to various places that both he and I needed to go to. I picked up a couple of packages containing materials( found on the cheap, thank-you internet! )for my costume, which I'd have otherwise been forced to take the bus to pick up, which would have been awkward all around.

Given my age and the age my parents, we don't spend nearly as much time as we used to together as a family, so any excuse to get together is welcome. My dad's semi-retired, in that he's still working while his pension has arrived, for which I'm quite grateful: I don't need to worry about him or my mom financially anymore. They're off doing their own thing free and clear here in Victoria, living the life they had dreamed of for so long in the city which they've grown to love and also where both their children reside for easy visiting.

But back to my days off: it's great that I could work longer on each of my other regular workdays and so 'earn' a full day off, free and clear, every two weeks. It's also worth noting that I was able to switch my EDO from a Tuesday to a Friday late in 2015: thanks to my seniority at my current workplace, I was given a choice of whatever day I wanted. Most people with seniority choose a Monday, but I actually like the idea of my weekend starting early, so a Friday was my pick.

There's just something about being able to go and do things on a workday when most people can't that appeals to me greatly. It also means that I can go places and do things at off-peak times( weekend crowds suck! )which is a bonus.

Mar 12 – Castle Visit

I went on a field trip today!

My girlfriend and I were looking to do something different today, so we headed out to Langford for breakfast while talking about possibilities. After a brief stroll around where I used to not go all that often, we decided to visit Royal Roads University, which is renowned for containing the historic Hatley Castle as part of its functioning campus, housing the administrative staff.

It turned out to be a gorgeous day: cool but brilliantly sunny in the afternoon, which was perfect timing for us. We parked in the main lot at the top of the hill and walked down to the main campus, consisting of three sizable main buildings, with the castle making a fourth. We detoured to the west, down into a magnificent ravine, following Charlie's Trail for about an hour, which wended alongside a perfect traveling brook which originated from a magnificent waterfall at the head of the trail:

When we emerged from the ravine path, we were near the shore of the castle grounds and headed back north along a side road, beneath the shade of a row of brilliant green-leafed trees. We came upon the castle as we emerge from the trees and onto the main lawn proper, it was quite a sight:

For those of you who may not know, this castle was featured in the X-Men filmss the mansion housing Xavier's School for the Gifted, better known as the X-Men and more recently, in Deadpool!

We spent another hour walking around the grounds, enjoying the gardens, which were filled with tiny buttons in early blooms of flowers, thanks to the mild weather that Victoria enjoys this time of year. We'll be back again later in spring, as we only saw some of the massive gardens and would like to hike along Charlie's Trail when it's less muddy.

It was a wonderful day to spend with my amazing lady!

Mar 13 – In Charge

I've given up on fixing my older 10" ASUS tablet.

It had been my hope to reformat the tablet with a new ROM, to speed it up and make it like new again, but I've discovered the design is inherently unstable. According to several forums, the type of RAM chips used in the ASUS TF300T are inherently unstable: the tablet needs to be reformatted every six months( or more often! )to keep the unit performing acceptably - which I find unacceptable. So I'll have to reset it and sell it on eBay, for a fair bit less than I paid a year ago.

Fortunately, another tablet has come to me by way of my girlfriend! As it turns out, she has a smaller 7.9" Acer, which is newer and speedier then my ASUS... and she never uses it, having purchased it for work that it turns out she can do better on a laptop; dang. But her loss is my gain, and I was thrilled to spend some time this afternoon to set it up for my own use with various apps and so forth. I'm going to mainly use it for reading books( Kindle or ePub or Comics ) as well as watching videos, some email / document use, Audible and a few other tasks better suited to a tablet than a laptop. Plus it also fits in a backpack far more easily and using it means that I won't be draining my phone battery as much.

On that subject, I have been looking for a portable battery to charge my mobile devices for about a year now. To date, most of the batteries I've seen are either too expensive or unreliable or even worse, both. I've been able to purchase a couple of possibilities on Amazon, but had to return them due to poor performance, which was disappointing.

I seem to have struck gold on my latest purchase( Lightning Sale deal, too! )however: a huge-capacity pack from RAVPower that looks to be just what I wanted. With enough juice to charge my power-hungry OnePlus One cell phone more than three times over and the ability to charge two devices simultaneously, I am now no longer tied down to power outlets wherever I go. See has a use my electronic devices quite a bit in a day, it's been frustrating to had out in the morning with a fully charged phone and have to plug it in by early afternoon with the battery in the low teens. With my latest purchase, I should be able to keep my devices running happily all day long and even go without an outlet on occasion with no worries whatsoever.

It's a g33k's paradise, I tell you...

I'm feeling much better than I was even  as of last week's blog entry, far more balanced and able to simply get on with my day. The stress is still here, but I'm managing it with the help of St. John's wort, practicing gratefulness daily and of course the support of my family and friends. I'm back on track, I think.