My Diary #041

Dear Tigey,

I feel like I tossed everything else out the window this week and concentrated on Lost Ark. 70 hours in the past 7 days is reasonable, right?

Entry #041 (Feb 20 2022)

Table of Contents

Looking for collectibles in my…
ට  School
ට  Work
ට  Life
ට  Games
ට  Plushie of the Week #39
ට  Song of the Week #16 / Memory Snippet of the Week #23
ට  Dreams

School

I very nearly had a very expensive miss this week — I was still waiting for my official acceptance to the Singapore study abroad program on my UAlberta side of things, and that had not arrived yet, so I hadn’t looked any further into anything else to do with that application. My gut nagged at me while in the shower on the 15th of February, however. I knew I had to reapply for my study abroad funding/bursary because my previous one (CAD $4000) had expired due to the study abroad program not running in either Fall 2021 or Winter 2022. Wasn’t there some sort of deadline for that?

I came out of the shower, checked on the website — yup! The deadline was exactly on that day, February 15th. Oops. I ignored work for the rest of the afternoon and worked on that, hammered out my long application. There were many individual boxes to fill in, but thankfully I had saved my data from my previous awards application for the Japan trip, and I adapted that (but rewrote large chunks of it to fit Singapore) and submitted it again.

I would like to thank my gut and good luck for potentially saving me a large bunch of money this week.

Anyway, a few days after THAT I had my official confirmation:

Hi Jessica,

Please be sure to read this entire email as soon as possible. Also, it contains important information to which you will likely need to refer again so please keep it easily accessible for future reference.

Congratulations! Your nomination for an exchange to National University of Singapore (NUS) for the equivalent of our 2022/23 school year (2 terms) has started.

Before I describe the remaining work / next steps related to your application, I need to provide you with this PANDEMIC UPDATE:

Given the ongoing suspension of all university travel (for students and staff) plus the latest updates from Global Affairs Canada, you need to understand that there is no guarantee that your exchange will be able to proceed as planned.
We will provide you with an update regarding your exchange plans sometime in the second half of May. In the meantime, as will be explained later in this message, please avoid making financial and academic commitments related to your exchange until you know for certain that it can proceed.

And now I can tell you more about the remaining work / next steps related to your application …

<snip>

There was one main caveat that was different from the first time I saw this email. This was the following line:

You do NOT have to pay the $250 nomination fee in Horizons. You will likely recall that I kept your $250 nomination fee from your previous application that was cancelled due to the pandemic. Just ignore this part of the application.

This carried over from the past series of applications that I did last year, so that makes sense. I’m glad they acknowledged it. Now the only question is whether the Singapore side of things accepts me. It’s not a sure thing, even though we checked before I applied, but it’s what I want to find out.

Work

This was a straightforward week, largely spent working through tickets and knowledge base articles and several other housekeeping things in preparation for the long weekend coming up. I have a double long weekend, with Sat-Sun-Mon off this weekend and Fri-Sat-Sun off next weekend, so this upcoming week will also be extremely short. Hooray!

I found out this week that one of my workmates (one of those I’ve namelessly complained about in the past and who seems somewhat tuned out from work these days, so I’m more worried these days than anything) was actually in my one year long NAIT Computer Network Administration class back in 2005-2006. That’s pretty amazing. I knew he took the same class but I thought it was in a different year. I only found this out when I found an old roster list of email addresses that I had collected from everyone on our final day!

Friday the 18th was the first mediation session between the University and the teaching staff’s union. Things were not resolved, and they have another one next week on the 25th, after which they can choose to give 2 week notice to go on strike if desired. I hope it happens, as a dispassionate observer who understands that both sides are probably some degree of right and everyone at the bargaining table has their hands tied, and wants to have this new experience. The University has never gone on strike before (we’ve never been allowed to, apparently, until a recent law change.)

Life

I love my new curtains that I provided pictures of last week. With the blinds closed, I sort of feel like I’m in a spaceship of my own, flying through space, or in a secret base of my own, with my treasure horde safely in my ship/base and my computer a control interface by which I can interact with the outside world. I do still try to keep the blinds open for a good part of the day and even night, but it’s nice having the option to insulate myself from the outside world.

I also picked up a nice, cheap(ish) carpet for my computer chair so it doesn’t chafe against the actual carpeted floor and leave furniture markings in them — I tried furntiure base pads (also pictured) for the chair at first but that didn’t stop the carpets from getting indentations, it just spread out the indentation a bit. I used to have a big carpet to prevent all this but got rid of it during the heat treatment experience in November last year. Anyway, that carpet is very fluffy and nice for now and does protect the floor. I worry about how to clean it though. It’ll probably get tossed once it gets too dirty and/or if I ruin it with a vacuum (it didn’t look quite that fluffy in the preview pictures on Amazon).

I don’t have that much else to say this week — I did seriously spend most of my free time playing Lost Ark, so besides going out for groceries, there isn’t really much that went on in life. I did find something on Reddit that I wanted to share — this AskHistorians thread it made me very happy because that’s almost exactly what I’m trying to do with this blog, I hope someday this will be enough of a primary source that interested readers, human or alien, will be able to point to this when someone asks a similar question in another time and space. (Also, from that list, I’ve read a good chunk of The Pillow Book, but never finished it before I had to return it.)

There’s anti-masking convoy protests going on in downtown Edmonton still and apparently it’s driving the residents down there crazy due to the honking and blockades and stuff — there’s lots of arguments and unfriendly discourse around the police’s lack of action and the idiots supporting that. I considered going down and trying to see if I can document any part of that event but decided against it. Thankfully I live far away from any of those shenanigans going on. They’re apparently into their fourth week now but they don’t deserve any further mention in my blog.

Lastly, I wrote a thank you card and bought a couple Alberta magnets for my New York Airbnb host who I stayed with during the last leg of my USA trip, because she had a fridge full of magnets from various trips she had taken, and I told her I’d send a couple to her once I got home as well. Winter chills and COVID and general lethargy meant that I never actually got around to it until now, though. And I haven’t mailed the envelope yet either, it’s still sitting next to me waiting for my next trip to the store.

Games

Lost Ark! My entire week was spent on this. I wasn’t sure that the game would be for me iniitlaly, but it’s been a lot of fun, the story has been very cheesy and full of plot holes early on, but there have been some pretty epic dungeons and events that have left really memorable moments that are sure to stick with me for some time and make me look back fondly at this game once I am done, and even the story itself has been a mix between being so bad that it’s laughably great to experience when it’s bad, and yet punctuated with a couple pretty great moments that came out of nowhere.

It’s actually kind of odd how the first “act” of the game, or the first few zones/continents, are really standard generic fare, and then things start to escalate to the point that going back to the earlier zones after that feels like “the good old days”. And from what I hear from my friends who have gotten further than me so far, as I’ve only cleared the story up till getting my ship so far, it escalates further and gets even wilder later on. That being said, this doesn’t do anything gfor its replayability — I still haven’t found anything yet that would make me want to stay and play the game after completing the story, but it has at least so far persuaded me to actually play the game through to at least its story completion.

In addition, the game has a compendium tome unlock/collectibles system for each grouping of zones, which they call a continent (even though the first four continents are really just one large continent by themselves.. it’s more like a country with each set of zones being several states/provinces that make up the country). This tome, and the associated collectibles and busytasks that go along with it and that are needed to finish filling out the tome entry for each zone, reminds me of Warhammer Online’s Tome of Knowledge system and is pretty awesome in that regard, except the game’s been out for so long and is so popular that all the answers as to how to unlock every entry on the tome can basically be Googled. That’s fine though, it doesn’t take away from the fun of collecting and unlocking it all, and perhaps even enhances it in a way by turning it into a casual shopping list of things to do while in a zone, kind of like a tourist brochure or checklist of little hidden places to see while on vacation.

The game has been out since December 2019 or so in other regions, so even though it’s only launched worldwide this month, in February 2022, it feels like most of the game has already been well polished and playtested. It’s been a pretty good feeling overall so far that I’ve very glad to have tried out. My bard character feels like (and has been called, by NPcs) a one-(wo)man army, and the combat seems to be very smooth and fluent. The game also has a ton of different mechanics, things like base-building (in lieu of housing, you get an entire castle on an island to unlock and build up) and ship sailing, being what I have unlocked so far, and there’s a lot of different things you have to do to power up your character, a lot of gameplay systems you have to deal with — a few too many in my opinion, as new gameplay mechanics just seem to endlessly keep on coming.

Anyway, that’s all I’ve been playing this week and likely for the next as well — we’ll see how long this lasts, but it’s been a pretty great experience so far playing the game and experiencing this new world alongside, if not outright with, my friends. I’ve also had three separate acquaintances/friends who I had not talked to in over a year, reach out over Discord or Steam and say hi because they, too, were playing or planning to play Lost Ark, though we’re of course on different servers (because no one else ever plays on US West for whatever reason. Not that that would change anything since there’s been no need to group up for any content so far). So that’s been an interesting facet of this experience too.

Plushie of the Week #39 – Unicoron/Headless

Unicoron was my younger sister’s Grade 7 project for Home Education class — they had to make a plushie.. or perhaps other things.. given a kit which they had to pay for, and then assemble. Kel liked unicorns, so she picked this unicorn, assembled and sewed her together, and the end result was this thing with a cotton body packed solid, and a completely floppy horn.

She’s really kind of cute though, I like her, and she’s one of our senior unicorn plushies. I believe possibly the absolutely oldest one we have. We estimate her completion/home arrival date (and thus birthday) to be in December 2000. She still holds up quite well all these years later, despite being a little bit dour-looking, and is perfectly capable of speech despite completely lacking a mouth. She is definitely the quiet type, though. She would occasionally leave the bedroom and venture downstairs to join the Main Crew at the computer desk or to watch a movie or wherever around our 4012 house they had wandered off to. I have no idea why we picked the name by showing an extra o into the word unicorn.

Her alternate name, headless, comes when she’s doing a handstand, as she looks like a dullahan when she does so. A picture is attached below. She can walk around in that mode and terrorize the other animals, especially around Halloween, and we have other bodyless plushies that can act as heads which we used to balance on top of Headless to give her a head at times.

Front:

Back:

Side:

Other side:

Headless mode:

Tigey riding his trusty steed into battle:

Song of the Week #16 / Memory Snippet of the Week #23

Title: My Favourite Mistake
Artist: Sheryl Crow
Album: The Globe Sessions (1998)

This Sheryl Crow song has a couple powerful mental images tied to it for me. It’s another Singapore-era English mainstream radio station song from 1998, so it is heavily nostalgic of that and of the self-collected Top 20 song lists that I was building at that time (and will get scanned someday). It also reminds me a lot of my family, our Tampines 294 apartment house, and my Mom for some reason, particularly the secnt of a brand of moisturizing (I think) cream that she used to wear, though I couldn’t tell you if it was Vaseline cream or some other brand. I don’t know why this song reminds me of that, but it does, and I guess it gets added to the previously-mentioned really short list of songs that remind me of a particular scent. It also reminds me of my two younger siblings, and the time we spent gaming together on the computer, particularly playing Might and Magic VI. Hm. I did consider doing a weekly Game of the Week section for the blog too, but I suspect it might devolve into rather mundane things or just descriptions of things in the game rather quickly. There are memories with some games like this one though. I will have to ponder this.

Anyway, this song does remind me of one incredibly specific memory snippet as well, and that is walking through a park next to the Pasir Ris MRT (train) station in Singapore, while listening to this song on my MP3 player. The specific park is the Sun Plaza Park, located on the southern end of the walking route (original) between the Pasir Ris MRT Station, which was the end of the Eastern line (E12), and the Tampines MRT Station, which was the second last station (E11) on same line. The walking route is more or less marked out on that map above. Specifically, I remember walking through the park, and I remember the sun symbol on the ground very well. You can see that in some of the community photographs like this one (original) or this one (original).

Our house lay near the E11 Tampines station, but a little south/west of it, so E11 was the nearest stop to get off at to walk home from it, but occasionally I’d stop at the stop before the house, E10 Simei, and walk home from there. Very rarely, I’d nod off and fall asleep or something, miss my stop, find myself at E12 Pasir Ris, wait a few minutes more, and the train would turn around and take me back to E11 Tampines anyway since E12 was the end of the line.

On this occasion, however, for whatever reason, I had decided on a whim to stay on the train, get off at the end of the line, and walk home. The walk was a rather long one, probably about an hour to get home from there (or 30-45 minutes to get to E11 Tampines and then take a bus home from there), but I had extra time that afternoon, as I often did, and Singapore is an extremely walkable country as long as it’s not raining, so I didn’t quite care. I remember this took place in mid 1998 or so, when I was 14, back after I knew we were going to migrate to Canada but some time before we were actually going.

I don’t remember much about the rest of the walk, but what has stuck in my mind all these years was suddenly coming to a halt around where that sun logo was emblazoned into the ground. It was just a large round paved circular area, almost like a pentagram, so I went to stand in the middle of the sun, and just took in the world around me in a very mindfulness sort of moment, an aesthetic that I was not familiar with at the time nor purposely pursued in a way that I might these days.

This song in my ear quietly embraced me as I stood in the park, within a strange mixture of quiet eerieness and distant noisiness — I remember looking at a train rumbling by on the elevated train tracks that ran close by, and I could see/hear the cars off on a nearby busy road, and I also knew that several really busy shopping centers were nearby, less than a 5 minute walk away. But the park itself was quiet and deserted, the trees were swishing gently in the hot wind, and I felt very, very alone, trapped in a bubble, with civilization very close to being within my grasp but staying tantalizingly just out of reach.

Did you see me walking by?
Did it ever make you cry?

I couldn’t put it into words then, but that left a sad pang in me, and I think that was probably when the implications of migrating abroad actually started to sink in (beyond it being something potentially cool but still far off in the distance). While I like this Sheryl Crow song, the song has a very sad tinge for me and this specific memory is probably why. Especially since it was popular enough to still be playing once we moved to Canada and I started attuning myself to the local Top 40 radio stations there.

Dreams

Not many dreams this week again! Even less than last week! And what I did remember is full of snippets instead of an actual storyline. I still blame my new state of extra-restful sleep.

Feb 15 2022
  • I was in charge of approving digital wallpapers for some rotating collection of other as part of my workplace job, and Bodhi submitted one that I liked whose foreground was made out of prefab Minecraft blocks/structures lined up side-view like a Terraria map, while the background was a real photo of the sky and background that day. (I looked up and saw the same sky with the same deep blue hue.) Dad was confused when he saw the photo before I approved it, but I told him about prefabs and about the picture tool he used, which was basically a Terraria map editor, and how the background could be any picture you liked. Then I approved the picture.
  • Another picture came in from someone else, and while I was about to take it and approve it as well, James saw it and made a comment on the picture so I decided to leave it for the following day when Ronnie would return to work.
  • There was some plot about a young toddler that we (a bunch of us) were taking communal care of, and who apparently considered me his foster mommy, and a lady said he wanted to join the police force eventually and asked me for my thoughts on it. I said that in the end it should be his choice once he grows up and that his “parents” should have no real say in it.
  • I remember a snippet about driving tiny cars around a city that was congested with buildings and dead ends, and another one about a final exam in school that I had to take but wasn’t too worried about.
Feb 16 2022
  • I was in our Dunman classrooms, and had just returned from the 1K/2K classrooms next door with my classmates, because Mrs Shu had cancelled our last class before lunch, so we had a free study period. There had been about 20-30 of us milling about in the 1K/2K classroom there waiting for the teacher, until En’li from Rosyth came in and announced that classes were cancelled. I saw Xuanjie and some of the other guys fooling around, trying to carry/drag off Eugene at one point toward an internal doorway that led to a small storeroom that adjoined the class like in our old Rosyth classrooms.
  • Anyway, once we returned to our 1L/2L classroom, I sat down at my seat at the back middle section of the class. I was sitting on the right side of a row of three tables, with Yaoxiang in the middle and Yucheng on the left. Yucheng had recently gotten a Gamecube Pro for Christmas or something, and he had brought it to school with him, it looked like a small tablet laptop and was precariously perched on the edge of the desk (but I noticed that it was attached to a charging dock of some kind so it was unlikely to fall off). Yaoxiang also had a similar device, but smaller, which looked like a Steam Deck but with a detachable screen. The two of them sat down and started programming some game that they were working on. I considered asking them if I could help them, but I didn’t have a machine to program on anyway.
  • In front of me sat Kaiting, and to her left sat Rachel. Kaiting chatted me up, saying that the two of them were working on some contest entry to do with a TV sitcom I had heard about before but don’t remember the name of. She asked me if I had brought food for my lunch and I said that I didn’t usually bring food for lunch — I brought money and ordered right from the canteen instead. I gestured and glanced toward the top of my half-open bag as I did so but saw to my horror that I had brought along a loaf of sliced bread from home, which I remembered picking up before I left the house as I was looking for my keys, and coin/card purses, which were around that area. Kel and Mom had been watching on at that point and Kel had also told me not to forget my jacket. The plastic wrap was well inside the bag so she didn’t see it though.
  • I texted Kel, who was apparently in the same school but different class as me, telling her what I had done and asking if she would be around at 3pm or so to pick it up if she was headed straight home, as I didn’t plan to head home right away and didn’t want Mom to go hungry. I had planned to do some exploration of the city after school since it was a Friday, getting off at a random train station to explore the attached shopping mall, and wouldn’t be home for a couple hours after.
  • I munched on some Indian potato curry anyway, eating a few pieces of the sliced bread while using the curry as a dip. I checked my exam grades somewhere around this point, and noticed to my slight irritation that I had gotten an 89.5% or so in two courses, but that the letter one, Math, was closer to 89.6 and so might actually be rounded up to 90 to get me to the next letter grade. I remembered a previous dream where I completely forgot that there was a math test that day because I had only recently transferred back in to my childhood class, and so I bumbled my way through that math test and did really poorly on it — that was probably where I had lost the majority of my marks. I had apparently come back with a vengeance the rest of the semester and done really well though.
  • Snippet: Much earlier in the dream sequence, I was wandering around a Minecraft-like world with some of those same Dunman friends and we were trying to decide where to build our base. There were other players too so we needed to keep our base hidden. We eventually settled on a spot with a strange, red ore-like block that wasn’t a solid block, it was actually a chain of tiny blocks, each one about 1/10 the size of a regular voxel block, which formed a small square pattern with a hole in the middle. We could purposely fall down the middle of the square of blocks to the bottom of the ore vein, about 4 or 5 blocks down, and then mine away from there to create a small hidden base at the bottom of the “chute”. There was a small spider web at the top of the chute, on ground level, that made it look like it extra unused, but I accidentally bumped into it while trying to enter the red ore chute and it stuck to me. I brushed it off but we couldn’t figure out how to reattach it so we discarded it.
  • I mused that technology was now so advanced but people hadn’t invented better blocks yet. I said that we should invent quantum blocks instead, which would be visible to anyone looking at them, but would not exist when the person wasn’t looking at them, so if we put two of those at the entrance of our mountain base, it would look like a regular wall to anyone passing by, but we could enter/exit it by walking up to it, turning around to face away from the door, and then walking backwards into it.
Feb 19 2022
  • I was on a trip to and wandering around a dream game world and remember a few snippets from it:
  • At one point, I was collecting little white flaky things from a map, using a viewpoint and controls reminiscenent of a top down ARPG.
  • At another point, I was looking for seats with my family at a stadium or show seating area that looked like an elongated bus stop. We were trying to find free seats that were either 5 in a row or 3 in front or behind 2 others, so that we could sit “together” as a family.
  • At a third point, Melbourne was explaining to someone else, who might have been my exchange coordinator, why a certain bus that he took for 20 stops or so had an optimal point on the trip for starting a nap at, so that you would wake up just in time to disembark.
  • At another point, there was a point where I was looking for a rental place to stay with my family and so we were browsing through houses in a paper file full of rental properties. Some looked like hotels, others looked like homes. I remember liking one that was two rooms that were part of a house with one external window and its own external door so we didn’t have to go through the main door and disturb the others living there when we entered or left the place.
  • Lastly, at one point I was going to class in a room and was carrying along a folder with some sort of special information or something. Even though no one could see what was in it, the folder itself drew attention, and one chubby guy hanging outside the building tentatively called out to me and said hi. I felt sociable, so I stopped to smile and chat with him, which seemed to make his day. He asked me what my name was and I said it was Kelly but with an -ie at the end instead of a -y, and he pointed out proudly that his name, which was 8 or 9 characters long, also ended with an -ie.

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