Sunday, 19 June 2016

Rent, Reality and Retirement Review

The word of the week is opportune.

June 13 – Virtual Trek?

One more step towards holodecks...

Virtual Reality will be here later this year, in the form of VR headset systems from the likes of Occulus and Vive, to name a few companies. While the initial offerings won't be cheap, coming in at around $1000 Canadian just for the headset systems, it's the push that counts: companies want VR in people's hands ASAP.

Understandably, that's not cheap.

I'm hoping that by the end of next year, prices will come down enough so that I can consider getting in on the low end with my current computer setup. There was a recent announcement from AMD about their latest line of VR-ready graphic cards being offered for around $200 USD, which is an astonishingly low price point, so that gives me hope about where the VR entry market will be in 2017.

Because I want to play something like this in VR:

June 14 –  OnePlus3 = Nah

Do I need a new cell phone? Nope.

I love my OnePlus 1 phone, despite its flaws. Today, OnePlus released the 3rd model in the lineup, and I'm... rather meh about it. Sure, it's more powerful than my One, with twice the RAM( 6gb? Holy #$@! )but other than that... there's little reason for me to upgrade. Aside from the fact that my OPOrandomly resets a few times a day, every few weeks - comes with the territory, according to other owners. Since it's not an essential business tool for me, I've learned to live with it, as it only seems to happen when I'm using the touchscreen intensively.

Also, it tends to overheat, but I'm not going there: I have a $2.50 battery-powered fan from the dollar store I keep with me for hot summer days, and that's fine.

Right now, the OnePlus 3 is $519 CAN... plus tax, plus shipping, making it far less of a bargain than the $450 I paid in 2014 after USD conversation and shipping from the USA. Considering that a 'flagship' phone costs around $600-800 nowadays, I still think I got a heckuva deal back in 2014, with a phone that's still going strong.

That's the thing: unlike my old Samsung Galaxy S3, which bogged down trying to do all that I asked it within a year of my signing a 3-year contract with Telus in 2012, the OnePlus 1 does all tha I ask it to, fast-as-you-please... and while again the overheating is annoying, it's not anything I can't deal with on occasion.

So for the time being, I'll be sticking with my current phone for at least another year or two. By that point, something better will have come down the pipe and hopefully won't cost both an arm and a leg; I won't be signing any contracts for new phone ever again, that's for certain.

Like a growing number of phone buyers, I'm much happier with purchasing outright.

June 15 – Retire Laughing!

Why are we smarter about finances?

For conspiracy theorists, the answer is easy: it's much easier to stand charge of a population that's only educated enough to just get on with life rather than wonder about why they never have the right information when they need it.

I'm relating this to finances because little, if any, education is directed towards ensuring that high school graduates are prepared to tackle the many financial challenges they will face during our lifetimes. Those who find successful solutions to financial difficulties often do so through trial and error rather than facing them well armed with facts and figures hard-won by others who've already been there.

Which is why you owe it to yourself to have a look at this video, which tackles the thorny subject of retirement and how it can make one's head spin very easily. If you don't have a lot of time, skip along to about the 18-minute mark for the essentials, though it is worthwhile watching in its entirety just for the comedic value alone:

June 16 – Gunsanity

I just can't leave this topic alone. It's too important.

Why is the USA so in love with its guns, that 32,000 of its citizens die every year at the wrong end of what are often called 'tools' or 'sporting equipment' - it's an obsession that strikes me as a step shy of total insanity. It's one of the reasons that I don't want to travel to any major city in the states anymore; I don't feel anywhere close to safe from the possibility of random gun violence.

The recent horrific tragedy that took place in Orlando this month has brought the issue of gun control to the fore again, I hope that this time the anger doesn't fade, if only because the LGBTQ community was specifically targeted... and they are one of the most active political groups in the USA, one that Gets Things Done.

With all the media distractions that are constantly being fed to both US and Canadian citizens, it's easy to think that this latest violent outrage is simply going to, but somehow I don't think so: a critical mass may have been achieved, and while the loss of life is deplorable, it may have done some good. More people everywhere, not just in the USA, are questioning the need for weapons that can be easily obtained through loopholes, as well as the reasons behind those purchases - have a read here, where one man goes right to the source.

You can research for yourself the difference that gun control has made in Australia since 1996, or in other countries around the world - this article in particular illustrates perfectly how the rest the world sees the self-destructive tendencies of the USA"s obsession with being well-armed in the face of overwhelming statistics that show it only leads to death for thousands every year.

Make whatever arguments you want; my mind is made up by facts and unswayed by those who insist on hiding behind archaic laws or for interpretations of such.

Guns kill things; that's what they're designed for. You can temporize all that you want about the need for defensive weaponry in the home but until political will becomes reality, blood will continue to be on the hands of both the innocent and criminal alike until the average citizen simply says "Enough."

I wonder how big the next gun-violence tragedy will have to be?

June 17 – Ridiculous Rent

It's been really hard to find the another place to live in my city.

Life means life, I'm always keeping an eye out for a better location, if only to ensure I keep my hand on the pulse of the market locally and so not miss any deals that show up during particular points of the year.

Right now, Victoria is the third most expensive place to live in Canada, which is saying a lot, and St Catharines is sitting at 10th, at around $900 for a 1-bedroom.

At present, I pay *exactly* the average price... and haven't been able to find anything in good areas for less than $1400.00 for two bedroom units, so that's been a pain. I definitely want to find something away from the main road and with luck, a place that doesn't have giants for upstairs neighbors or is surrounded by chain smokers who like to linger on their balconies all morning and evening.

Buying the place is certainly out of the question for me, given the red-hot state of Victoria's current real estate market. As I mentioned recently, the average two-bedroom detached house price in Victoria has risen to around $750,000, which is so far out of my reach that it's funny: I probably will never be a homeowner here.

That's depressing.

However, there's always the dream of owning a Tiny Home, albeit one with room for books, boardgames and occasional guests, so there's that. For the moment, that dream needs to be kept alive so that I can have something to look forward to aside from decades of trying to find rental spaces that aren't surrounded by smokers were leadfoots or motorcycle enthusiasts -that headspace will quickly become crowded and untenable, if you'll forgive the pun.

But for now, it's price that will determine when I move.

June 18 – Want vs. Need

I'm not a collector, though I am a fan of many g33ky things.

It's difficult to see some really cool things that I'd like to possess, but don't have the budgetary wherewithal to even think about the attempts.

Yet, that very lack makes me think: why do I want such things?

Case in point: Soundwave from the old Transformers show. He's always been my favorite transformer, for many reasons, not the least of which is his cool, capable efficiency in what he does( and up the fact that he's working for the wrong side ).

Back in 2013, a Masterpiece version of Soundwave was released, for around $100 USD. It was quickly sold out everywhere within a month or two and since then the value of those pieces has steadily climbed to around $500 for a Mint-In-Box example - at that price, very few people can afford to pick one up now.

At the time, I couldn't justify spending $100 on a toy, despite its significance to myself... and here I am today, lamenting the fact that I didn't, but also acknowledging that I still don't need such a thing, which would just sit on a shelf to be admired on occasion and perhaps even played with if I wanted to reduce the value significantly - again, something that collectors everywhere must wrestle with.

The question is: will that keep happening?

Well I keep seeing the occasional collectible that really speaks to my creative or childlike side, but that I will pass up yet again because I won't justify the 'waste' of money to purchase what amounts to a useless hunk of plastic and metal? Despite the fact that there's the possibility of it rising in value over time?

I don't know. I guess I will just have to keep asking the question.

June 19 – Counting Up

I was feeling a little down today.
Little is the key word here: all the little things that have gone right lately ganged up in my brain and their joined voices were little hard to take.

But I've learned to ignore that chaotic chorus, albeit with difficulty sometimes.

Whenever life's little nagging voices dog you with 'What ifs?' and Nyah-Nyah-You're-Not-Doing-As-Well-As-You-Should-be's, just stick to this simple piece of advice and you'll do fine:

Which is exactly what I did. For example, the fact that I had two good-as-junk laserdisc players really frustrates me... but I tried. I lucked into not one but two of the exact model I wanted( Pioneer Elite CLD-79 )and the fact that neither one worked out is beside the point: I did my best, and neither failure was my fault.

My book's coming along steadily, with a good flow of ideas happening on a daily basis. Sure, some days the ideas are much sparser than others, but the fact that my subconscious is still working on them despite my many setbacks this year is a point of pride for me as a writer: I'm not blocked by anything other than circumstance.

Sure, my job could be better, but in terms of stress levels, it's pretty damn good - there's a lot I can take away from that, and my wonderful coworkers are daily bonus for which I'm grateful despite having lost several of them to new positions elsewhere this month. I'm hoping to do that myself soon enough; all it will take will be for someone to see my potential in one of the positions I've been applying for, for the last six months... I just have to be patient.

As for the rest, really only two things matter: my family's doing well, and my girlfriend loves me for who I am.

And: those little voices are gone; good riddance.

Speaking of counting my blessings: I had dinner with my parents and sister for Father's Day, at a lovely Vegan cafeteria called Green Cuisine downtown. I'm again utterly grateful that my immediate family is all doing well and are in Victoria. That we all get along and are so caring to one another... it's truly a blessing, however you want to count it - my Dad especially has been a pillar in my life and I look up to him in many ways still, despite my gain in height over the years.

Love you, Dad!

The sun came out today, and though I didn't get outside due to having a lot to do( and it being rather a chill, windy day! )it's great to just be in a place where it's BRIGHT so often. I'm adding that requirement to the list of Things To Look For When Renting, as I've no desire to live in a cave if at all possible - never have, never will. Even a Man Cave of mine would have windows...