Sunday, 8 January 2017

Contact, Creative Chats and Low-Cost Cells

The word of the week is deliberate.

Jan 2 – What's Going On?

New year means new news, right?

Or does it?

Despite our world being more connected than ever, we're all still... well, isolated, if you'll allow me to use that word. This is an odd thing, in that in the continual act choosing how we connect to the world and others, we also choose how we isolate ourselves, and from whom.

Take FBook, for example: you can Friend people and keep up with their lives, as much as they choose to post snippets thereof, and often to the point where you have to dial things back in order to get through the scroll-grind each day in a reasonable amount of time. This, on top of things like Messenger, Snapchat, texts, email and even good ol'fashioned phone calls - not to mention Facetime or Skype.

Yet, what are we really doing?

For the most part, it's really just keeping up: new job, new kids, new house, new... well, news in general. The minor mundanities of life made special, interspersed with the wonderful moments, significant achievements and their reverses, along with calls for support, understanding and even grief. All of this, and more.

Myself, I see social media and email as tools, with little else of use to me, apart from texts to my family and friends locally. I keep myself tied in to the lives of hundreds of people: friends, family, co-workers and other acquaintances... but mostly as an observer, and quite honestly it's rare that I have an actual conversation with people that isn't face-to-face.

There's more to this line of thought, I think... more next week - ponder, I shall.

Jan 3 – Best Time To Buy... ?

I'm a big fan of LifeHacker, and though the site's been somewhat hit and miss this year in 2016 for my own particular needs, it's still full of great resources.

One such is their annual Best Time To Buy Anything Guide, which just came out this week and is chock-full of suggestions as to when the best prices on almost anything occurred during the year, based on factors such as seasonal availability, holidays, sales and so forth. Check it out:

For example, February is apparently best time to search for cell phone prices, though the guy does state that it's often a BOGO( buy one get one )deal for Valentine's Day that's really the top of the deal charts for this time period. Hmmm... and February is ALSO the best month for TV shopping too, which I didn't know. Not that I need a one, but for any of you reading this, there you go.

The Comments section on the article has some excellent advice too, and it's well worth checking out if it saves you costs all year long. Which I advise, always!

Jan 4 – Wage Gaps

I've basically resigned myself to renting for the next 5 years.

Not that I've given up looking to own a home, but there's frankly little hope in the short-term of having my own place to Keep My Stuff: I'm not financially solvent by a long shot, and the skyrocketing real estate market here is just adding insult to injury.

Getting a better job( or several in a row )along with debt repayment over the next 5 years is the only solution, painfully slow as the latter may be.

It's only rarely now that I wonder about how things could been different, if I'd somehow taken the different path where I was much luckier financially and I didn't have to make difficult choices back in my 20s regarding my family. Right now, I could have been fairly close to paying off a 25-year mortgage and thinking about an early retirement from a full-time job, and focusing more my writing.

It's kind of funny, in a way, that I'd likely not have started writing until this phase of my mind anyway, no matter the path back I'd chosen: finances have a knack of getting in the way of things that you really want to do in life.

Speaking of finances: as of noon yesterday, Canada's top CEO's each made more than I did, in less than a single day of being back to work for 2017.

On the left: CEO's in Canada averaged this pay by 11:18am EST yesterday...

Tell me that's not something to think about, when it comes to wage gaps.

Jan 5 – Snappy Budget Cell?

Sad to say, I've still had no luck in getting my OnePlus One cell to work better, after months  of trying.

While the random reboots seem to have gone away on their own( nothing I did )the phone still runs far too hot, and slows down daily despite my maintenance efforts. At this point, I'm not sure how much more time I'm going to waste trying to get it to work properly again, and even the factory reset might not improve things.

So is much as it pains me, I have to look at replacing the phone sometime this year, which means looking at purchasing a new( or a newer-used )phone by the end of 2017, budget permitting. I will say that there's no way I'm going to sign a contract, nor will I be buying anything that cost more than $400 all-in: beyond that, it's more money than I'm willing to spend are able to say.

I do have a hard time telling phones apart these days...

One contender just announced today is the Nokia 6, which at a suggested retail price of $245 USD, will be well within my budget criteria and has excellent stats for the price. Plus, it's a Nokia, which is a company long known for quality products as well as value for the money.

Other options are to keep an eye on phones like the OnePlus 3, which has already had a successor released in 2016( the OnePlus 3T )or the upcoming OnePlus 4, though the price of both phones will likely stay too far but my set budget. Another alternative is to ordering a Chinese phone through direct sellers like, but I'm hesitant to do so as the levels of quality and after-sales support are still questionable for many such products... and I don't feel like wasting my hard-earned and fairly-scarce money.

For now, it's just status quo: use what I've got, and save for the new...

Jan 6 – Premonitions?

Ah, FBook. Sometimes, you really make me smile when you show me "Memories' from previous years... and today's was amazing.

This was the picture that showed up on my newsfeed today:

Now, apart from being a really lovely piece of art( whose creator I finally managed to track down just this year )it's a picture that came to me through happenstance: I wasn't looking for it in particular, but when I saw that she in my daily search( I was posting a haiku daily the time )it tugged at my mind, somehow. I was feeling particularly lonely and uncertain about my future three years ago, and something in this picture spoke to that quite clearly.

Yet, what blew my mind today was when I realized that it was a picture of my then-future girlfriend, whom I wouldn't meet until February 2014 during one of my writing group meetups.

Sure, it could be coincidental, you're thinking: that the girl in the image and my lady both have long, curly hair, in that she's facing away from the artists so you can' exactly see her face. But...

There's a rabbit curled up on the back of her bike, and my lady owns a bunny( named Rodney, after a character on Stargate SG-1 and Atlantis ). Perfect.

So, however it came about, this picture popped up almost exactly a year before I met my lady. It was a preview, of sorts, and that gives me great comfort in facing my future knowing that she's now in my life... and the best part, at that.

Jan 7 – First Contact?

Ah, video games... while often a haven from reality, there's usually not too many exciting or unique things going on.

Especially massively multiplayer online games, which are pretty much all variations of 'Kill, loot, level up, and repeat' which I find rather boring, even for those games where there's a lot of exploration thrown in, which I greatly enjoy.

Apart from big fantasy MMO's such as World Of Warcraft, the one game I do feel drawn to is Elite: Dangerous, a scifi space exploration( and combat )sim that exisists in a really, really big virtual universe, populated solely by humans.

Well, until today, that is.

The video below shows the very first alien encounter in Elite: Dangerous, and came as a complete surprise to the player, as this article attests. Check it out:

This totally plays into my love of exploration in games, though sadly that takes time, which I don't have at the moment: I'm exploring the universe of my own making, in my novels... but I'll admit the one in E:D sure looks purdy... and now there's wild-looking aliens thrown into the mix. So tempting, especially with the  new graphics card I have...

They sure named the game correctly: I must stay away!

Jan 8 – Chatting Creatively

As my girlfriend was feeling somewhat tired and as such not able to be out at all, I decided that today was going to be devoted to creativity.

To be specific: the morning and early afternoon were spent reading and writing sci-fi, as part of easing myself back into full writing mode for 2017. Part of that process is, for lack of better word, keeping the creative spark alive and I have found nothing better for that been chatting with fellow creatives one-on-one.

To that end, I got together this afternoon at a downtown restaurant for a chat with a friend of mine who is a brilliant songwriter and who, in addition to being extremely intelligent, is also quite widely read and an excellent conversationalist.

To say the least, we both enjoyed the afternoon immensely.

I've read quite a few times this number, and need to read as many more, at least...

Our conversation ranged widely, from current cultural trends to historical analogies and important figures, from modern politics to a rather lengthy and fascinating delve into the depths of the creative process, which I found to my delight I was able to articulate fairly specifically to my friend when asked.

It's days like this one that reinvigorate my muse, to feel the energy and enthusiasm returned when I chat with someone about Flow, and the creative process, and all the myriad mysteries that lie within to be untangled...

A spectacular way to end the weekend, I must say. And we'll do it again soon!

I'm feeling fairly normalized, after last week's frolics... my left arm is still bruised, but I count myself lucky that's the only take-away from my experience with such a malignant germ-bug that got me. I've been able to walk to work well enough the last month overall, with only a few twinges in my left leg, so I'll go easy and hope to start gently back on the path to exercise this coming week. 2017 looks to be starting off with a stumble, but I'm still moving...