(As promised in Discord: ) I didn’t do anything. I didn’t sleep well. Sod off.
Entry #076 (Dec 18 2022)
A class slot opened for Japan 302, the mainline language-learning class, this week and I strongly considered jumping in feet-first to that instead of my current (English-based) Classical Japanese course, Japan 341. But nah, although I need both courses for my degree still, it’s better if I do this one now and that other one assumedly in Japan.
I had partly forgotten this, but I actually already bought my textbooks for both these courses a year or two ago just before I dropped everything due to disliking COVID classes. The textbooks for Japan 341 (and likely the other) are still current, thankfully.
This week was quite the busy week, but our work queue is down from about 70 last weekend to about 25 this weekend, so people are finally perhaps able to start easing into the holiday break. Well, actually, some people already left for theirs, so hopefully nothing too terrible breaks in the next week or so. A good chunk of the remaining tickets are offboarding tickets for people leaving over the break too, so they’re “next year’s tickets”, so to speak, nothing we can action right now.
Due to sleepless nights and extremely early morning wake-up times, I started working at some point between 3am to 5am for most of the week and was usually done by the time everyone else came in around 8am, and about mentally checked out for the day by the time the team meeting came around at 11am. Questions and issues still came around in the afternoon though so I was still always around to try to answer them, which meant that since I was doing more than my alloted 7-8 hours a day, I could afford to take it easy in between and not feel bad about it.
One week to Christmas/New Year’s vacation break!
I had two remaining commissioned gifts to send out from my trip to Japan, one being a keychain to Heg down in the States and the other being Mama to Oaisa. Somehow I managed to get both done this week, so now I’ve finally finished up my post-trip obligations to other people, yay. Shuuka received her CDs this week as well, though they were a full 6 days later than Canada Post had predicted. It sat in a USPS sorting facility in Los Angeles for like 3 days before moving.
Anyway, regarding Heg‘s keychain, my sister told me this week that she was going down to Arizona this weekend to visit a friend of hers from her time working/studying in Singapore who was now living there, and asked if I had anything I wanted to get from there. I said no, but that I had something for her to drop off at the post office while there. I passed her the bubble envelope (via Dad, who was stopping by Southgate on an excursion to West Edmonton Mall via the transit centre here), and she dropped it off at the post office when she arrived. Apparently it cost $5.35 USD for shipping, which is a bit more expensive than the actual cost of the keychain but still a lot cheaper than it was going to cost from Canada due to cross-border parcel rules, I believe.
Regarding Mama, neither Oaisa nor I currently study at the University so we had been finding it hard to arrange a time to meet so I could hand over custody of the Kuromi plushie that I bought her, but we finally decided on this Friday afternoon and I went down there after work and before our group watch anime to hand over the goods. I had kept Mama separate from the other plushies (except for the ones that came along with me on the trip) so I wasn’t attached to her anyway, but it still felt weird, like I was plushie trafficking. I added a few things I had gotten for free on the trip — a little bag-purse thing, a sticker, a small keychain or bag tag or something, and a plastic thing that was stuck into the ice cream. I took photographs of them all first, of course.
There was also a little Kurumi-shaped notepad that I kept — that one I paid for, since I enjoy collecting stationery paper.
I ran into transit trouble on the way there — due to what I found out later on was some pedestrian collision or other, all the trains were backed up both ways and the digital tickers at each station saying when the next train would arrive were all garbage. On the outgoing journey, the next train ticker was stuck at “Due” for at least 5 minutes before the train actually came, and before that the ticker showed two trains 5 minutes away and one train 7 minute away somehow, when we’re only the second stop on the line (and the first stop, Century Park, is a dead end station with two platforms and no other train lines). On the return trip, even though trains were supposed to arrive every 6 minutes, the ticker showed the next two trains to be 18 and 20 minutes away. Yet, lo and behold, a train rolled in when there were 12 minutes left on the ticker.
However, one thing good about making this trip was that I got to test out our new tap-and-go Arc cards. Transit here is (now) $2.75 a trip, with a 90 minute unlimited free transfer window after tapping in for the first time, and I used my Arc card for the first two times this week, a bus trip to the grocery store earlier in the week, and this train trip to the University. Both times the transit card worked just fine, and one fee payment got me to my destination and then back via a free return trip each time. For all that it’s terrible and delayed, I do appreciate that the card can be easily topped up online (local), that’s much better than a lot of other transit systems around the world, including (if I’m not wrong) both Japan and Singapore as well as every USA city that I went to..
I stopped by the library while I was at the University, and took a snapshot of the question board located there. It was Friday evening, so most of the answers for the week would have been submitted by that point. It was a poor showing this week though, with a lot of bad answers that had nothing to do with the question.
There were some nice clouds that I saw from the bus on Tuesday on my way home from the Asian grocery store. I happened to be seated on one of the side-facing seats of the bus instead of the front-facing ones that day, and the person across from me had gotten up and disembarked from the bus a couple of stops after I got on. There was a big, clear window behind her that happened to frame the clouds above very well as the bus trundled on, so I was enthralled by the colours and contrast for a while. I took a picture once I alighted. Little miracles.
Other than that it really was a somewhat quiet week. My sleep schedule briefly righted itself at the start of the week, then quickly went sideways again, as I found myself still only sleeping for 4-5 hour chunks. I had a 3am-7am night, two 9pm-2am nights, and an 11pm-3am night this week, and it’s all very weird. Although I don’t hate being up in the wee hours of the morning working on stuff alone, I also don’t like hitting a wall and falling asleep so early in the evening. The weather promises to be terrible next week, so I went to stock up on groceries several times this week, making sure that I have enough stuff in the fridge and cupboard to last the entire week and some without ever stepping foot outside.
I did some research into Japan shipping prices using a delivery estimate calculator and found a quote comparison that included the 13,000 yen that I had to spend to ship my package back from Japan on Nov 10. The shipping estimates I got from the tool for a normal sized package of varying weights looked like this:
DHL: 4,160 yen
FedEx: 3,571 yen
EMS: 4,400 yen
UPS: 6,324 yen
Surface (Seamail, 3~8 months): 2,500 yen
DHL: 4,377 yen
FedEx: 4,089 yen
EMS: 6,700 yen
UPS: 7,682 yen
Surface (Seamail, 3~8 months): 3,100 yen
DHL: 7,153 yen
FedEx: 4,478 yen
EMS: 7,750 yen
UPS: 7,929 yen
Surface (Seamail, 3~8 months): 3,700 yen
DHL: 7,262 yen
FedEx: 5,112 yen
EMS: 8,800 yen
UPS: 8,452 yen
Surface (Seamail, 3~8 months): 3,700 yen
DHL: 7,480 yen
FedEx: 5,361 yen
EMS: 10,900 yen
UPS: 9,038 yen
Surface (Seamail, 3~8 months): 4,300 yen
DHL: 7,697 yen
FedEx: 6,392 yen
EMS: 13,000 yen
UPS: 10,480 yen
Surface (Seamail, 3~8 months): 4,900 yen
I had no idea, but Japan Post to Canada Post mail delivery was actually closed all the way through COVID or something until the end of October, and EMS and Surface mail had only just resumed on Nov 02, a week before I tried to send back my package. Any earlier than that and I would have been refused, and probably had to look into some other solution (or just not buy so many CDs). I never saw a DHL or FedEx shop or truck while there in Japan (not that I wander into them on a regular basis back home either) and had no idea that they were options.
I spent a bit of time playing Genshin Impact this week, largely lured back by the prospect of Genius Invokation, the ingame trading card game (TCG) that took the game world by storm and that the main character (optionally) decides to pick up and become the best there ever was at the game.
It’s fairly fun, and (so far) not particularly difficult, although a lot of the characters and items mirror each other with only slight variations so it feels like the designers decided to play it safe and create a very much balanced, but also whitewashed and unadventurous game, rather than create a game that might be something actually wonderful and unique. I mean, it’s hard to not be balanced when every base weapon is a variation of +1 damage for a certain element, and every upgraded weapon is a +1 damage with tiny effect, and every hat is -1 resource consumed when casting a certain element, etc. Boring. Unimaginative.
The game itself isn’t bad though, and I like the collection and (to a certain extent, despite the sameness of the cards) deck-building aspect of it. Hopefully they improve on the game over time and add new and interesting mechanics, and not just declare that it’s done and wash their hands of it.
The other game I played this week was Valheim, on Tes‘s server, together with Kay, Satinel, and Milumbar. We defeated the first boss last Saturday and the second one last Sunday, and then spent the rest of the week mining and building and have already raised a nice house on some oceanfront property near a rich variety of biomes. My play was concentrated around the weekends, as I took a break from the game during the weekday due to sleep issues and due to wanting to get other things done, but I still apparently put in just under 50 hours this past 8-9 days on the game, though that includes some idling time. Scary.
For our session this week, we defeated the third boss, Bonemass, and then had an extended session exploring to the Mistlands, then dying to terrible bug-things and having to set up a portal nearby to retrieve our corpses. Then we went into some mountains/plains area to try to mine some silver ore, and that took a long time and a lot of pain to set up supply lines and rez portals for as well, with deathsquitoes and wolves and golems everywhere. Tes and I ended up playing through the night, it was 5am my time before I finally went to bed.
Plushie of the Week #74 – Special Week
Special Week is an anime character plushie that I picked up while in Japan, the character herself being the protagonist of the first season of the Uma Musume anime, a sports show based around moeified versions of famous racehorses on the Japanese horse racing circuit. She’s a Power of Friendship sort of character (all the characters are, really), but because every season of the show so far features a different set of protagonists, she was relegated to side character status for the second and most recent season as of time of writing. She has a great name too — so much so I’ll probably keep it for the plushie too. Every week is a special week if one wills it to be, after all.
This Special Week Mini Plushie hails from a store named ASTOP (local) on the 4th floor of a building named Akiba Cultures Zone in Akihabara. I got her on Oct 24 2022, and she cost 500 yen, a mere fraction of a cost that most of the other Uma Musume plushies of the same size that I saw in Japan cost. I did see a number of them in different stores, and I noticed that some of them looked a little different from each other, so likely different manufacturers and such, so I have no idea if this one is “official” merchandise or an unofficial remake of the official plushie, but that’s fine. She looks nice and accurate enough, and although her hair is of equally low quality as the Patchouli plushie from last week, the rest of her outfit is quite intricately done and she’s cute in general. Unlike Patchouli though, her outfit is stitched on.
Here are some pictures of the girl. From the front:
And talking about Patchouli, here’s a picture of this week’s Plushie of the Week with last week’s one, along with the proverbial master of the house.
They’re the same size! I don’t know what this doll form factor is called but I like them, the little big-headed chibis. I just call them all fumo (well, fumos being the plural, I hope) even though they’re not official Fumo plushies.
While playing around with them, I actually discovered that Patchouli’s hat comes right off, which made my opinion of that doll (and the quality of it) go up. Due to that, I’ve added some pictures and links to last week’s post, but here’s one of Special Week wearing Patchouli’s hat as well. This isn’t any sort of sacrilege, right? This is too cute.
Song of the Week #51
Title: Emerald Green
Album: Dream Field (2003)
This is quite possibly my favourite anime song from a show that I have never actually watched. But I’ve heard it many times through AMQ, since Nak has watched the show it was from, .hack//Legend of the Twilight, and somewhere along the way I just fell madly head over heels in love with it.
Like most of my other lines, I like this song due to its melody, I like the rising and almost wistfully pleading tone in the song, with my mental image of the song being a woman standing at a window or a balcony, staring up at the stars as twilight sets over the land after the sun dips below the horizon, and reminiscing about childhood days gone by, much as I totally often do as well.
But because I haven’t actually watched the show and have no idea what the show even is about, the song for me has connotations instead of AMQ itself, where it doesn’t come out nearly as often as I wish it does, and of walking around on my University grounds covered in light winter snow. I get a nice little rush of “it’s happening!” whenever the song plays either in AMQ or on my music player, because it’s not often carried around on my actual phone or queued up in my home playlist (due to not being in my main anime music folder because I haven’t actually watched the show), so it doesn’t even get as much airplay as many of my other favourite anime songs. It’s not alone though, as there are several other songs I really like from shows I haven’t watched either, and those are in the same underplayed boat in my list.
That being said, the song is on my walking songs list during the spring to fall seasons as well, and it’s one of the songs that instils wanderlust in me. I love the vocalist’s crooning voice, it’s like she’s singing into the void, and this song has provided inspiration that has helped me several times by urging me on to try something different, pushing me forwards with gentle hands pressing against my back.
Memory Snippet of the Week #58
One other thing I did on Friday when I went down to the University this week was to buy some dinner from my favourite store in the mall (HUB Mall) there, Ho Ho Chinese Food (local), locally known as Hoho’s. I’ve eaten at this store for many, many years.. not when I was a student back in 2002-2005 or so, as I was in full money-saving mode then and never ate lunch even once, but when I started working here in 2006 under my first boss, Brad, we often went to lunch together since our office at the time was on the ground floor just beneath Hoho’s, and I fell in love with the food here. They changed ownership about 5 years ago or so, I think, and have somehow survived the pandemic as well by turning to delivery (via SkipTheDishes and Fantuan), and I’ve given them a lot of money over the years. This food joint has also appeared in my dream many times.
The store has always offered two types of food — one was the standard Chinese fast food schtick where they had different types of premade food laid out in trays and a patron could order rice or noodles plus 1-3 items, and the other was a large kitchen menu where a patron could order a specific complete dish from them and wait about 10-30 minutes (depending on how busy the store was) as they cooked up the dish on the spot. I always did the latter, being a creature of habit, with several mainstay dishes that I fell in love with over time and would always request. I never ate from the tray itself, not even once, not because I dislike the idea or the food but just out of a weird sense of pride as this was what I always did. It was part of my identity, and I ate there so often that they were one of the first people outside of my family and workplace that found out about my gender transition since, well, they knew me very well pre-transition and I just showed up there one day in female clothing and explained it to them. They were like a second family, and I was quite friendly with several of the stall attendants as well as the uncle and auntie that used to own the store.
Our relationship is now a lot more tepid though, and possibly about to end entirely. When I first started eatlng here in 2006/2007, I had three main dishes that I would go for — Shanghai Noodles, Country-style Fried Noodles, and Duck and Pickled Cabbage Noodle Soup, which I tended to pick out the most often, out of the many yummy and cheap dishes on menu. Back then the prices were cheap — most of the dishes were just under the $10 CAD mark, with the Country-style Fried Noodles being particularly cheap compared to the others, clocking in at about $7.95 or so, if I recall correctly. I think the Shanghai Noodles were $8.95. Over the past 15 years or so though, the prices have sharply risen — with the majority of prices first breaking through the $10 mark, then the $11, then the $12, and so on. It felt like they adjusted the cost of the food upwards every two years or so, usually by about 50 cents at a time, to see what new price they could get away with.
At the same time, the kitchen menu, which I always ordered from, has steadily been shrinking since the new management took over as well, as the middle dish, the fried noodles, was removed a couple of years ago. The duck soup followed suit, although there’s still a pork version that remained. As of March 11 2022, this was what the menu looked like:
However, when I went back to pick up my order this week, I saw to my horror that this was what it looked like now.
Not only did the first dish and my most common order by far, the Shanghai Noodles, get removed, there was a huge increase in prices over the board, with most items on the menu jumping another full dollar, and another dish in particular which I occasionally frequented since previous choices were now gone, the (fake) Singapore Noodles, jumping a whopping $2.50 in price. As an aside, I was amused how even when they delete items, they don’t bother actually changing the call number beside each item, so Fried Noodle still goes from 23-28 but just skips 24 (possibly the Country-Style Fried Noodle, not sure) and 26 (Shanghai Noodles) entirely now. It reminded me of local and express trains in Japan, where some trains just didn’t stop at some stations.
As a segue, there actually used to be a lot more noodle (and rice, and soup, but particularly noodle since I went for them most of the time) options on the full menu too, about 15 of them in all, but the new management has really dumbed down the menu in the name of efficiency and profit, I suppose. I did some hunting around and found what some of the old kitchen menus (mounted up by the ceiling behind the front counter of the shop) look like, although all the photos are too low-rez to actually see the listed prices. I wanted to leave this here though so I can look back on this in the future and remember what the menu for one of my favourite stores used to look like back in the good ol’ days. Firstly, there was this original (to me) menu style which they had for years and years:
Courtesy of Yelp circa May 2010. I believe the man in the red shirt was one of the owners of the store, him and his wife hung out there all the time.
The second menu style they had came into being in the late 2010s:
I believe this change occurred just as the new ownership took over, though I’m not certain. That picture is courtesy Google, circa Aug 2018. And now they have that weird new bluish television screen menu.
Anyway, all this was too much for me. Not only was my last original favourite dish gone now, there was yet another large jump in price that did not reflect the rate of inflation — my salary sure hasn’t jumped anywhere close to 100% since 2006, but the food prices more or less have.
I did suspect that I knew why the prices kept going up though — namely because of delivery and processing fees from them pivoting to online delivery companies during and after the pandemic. In fact, I specifically used the term “pick up my order” earlier in this writeup because I had ordered the dishes that I wanted to buy through the Fantuan mobile app while waiting for the train to arrive and pick me up from Southgate, so that I wouldn’t have to actually place my order in-person and then wait 10-15 minutes or so for them to cook it.
There was one thing I noticed when I was making my order, and it wasn’t the first time I had seen this — shops on Fantuan had sales all the time, and Hoho’s in fact had an ongoing 20% discount on nearly everything for pick-up orders (and welrdly, a 30% discount for delivery), which was partly why I had decided to order from them. But this discount was not available if you walked up to the counter and ordered it right there, you had to use the app to get the discount. I thought this was very weird, as it felt like they were punishing actual students and staff and making them (and other walk-up customers) help offset the cost of random people who were ordering online from all over the city.
This didn’t sit well with me, and I had planned to start frequenting this place again when I return to campus for in-person classes next semester, but now I don’t think I will anymore. Or at least, I’ll just check the app from my class and wait for substantial discounts before ever eating here again.
Last Year’s Entry #27
My corresponding diary entry from last year is My Diary #032. This was published on Dec 19 2021.
The class that I am planning to take this Winter semester in order to maintain my student status is coincidentally also taught by the same instructor of the Haiku class that I took last year in Winter to maintain my student status. Things come in pairs, I suppose. Or the Rule of Two, except nothing bad happened the first time, except I only got an A on that course and not an A+. I suppose it’s the second time I’m considering taking the course, which is why I also already own the textbooks for it.
One year into our team merge, and it’s not too bad. We still are basically two different teams working alongside each other as opposed to one team though, as nothing we (my half of the team) do is interchangeable with anything that they (the other half) do, and our boss has been super busy trying to manage double the number of people that he should be managing and running double concurrent major projects for one full year without much of a break now.
The mention of the Dunman High scans that I uploaded last year reminded me that I recently set up an app to log into all my Mega accounts when I run it, so that they don’t expire and delete all the uploaded stuff. The app I am using is called MegaKeep.
This was also my last week of the original Photograph of the Week segment, before I rebooted it a few weeks later into Memory Snippet of the Week. Photograph was too narrow a scope in the end, although I left all the current ones and made them the first 18 entries of Memory Snippet of the Week.
Due to punctuated sleep, I barely had any recalled dreams this week, though one of the two days where I had dreams had me recalling a set of three of them.
Dec 15 2022
- This one is vague, but I was playing AMQ in my Edmonton 205 home when I suddenly had a bunch of helper scripts malfunction and give me weird popups offering clues to solve a song when I already knew it, but the popups blocked my being able to actually input the answer to the song, so I missed it.
- I was annoyed at this and closed the popups, but then I noticed that the browser was acting weird and not loading properly. It was late at night, and I tried to fix the browser issue in the dark, but couldn’t do it. Twitter was involved in some way as well, though I don’t remember exactly how.
- Suddenly, I saw a small, black rat run across the underside of my desk, and I jumped out of my seat and went toward the main light switch and turned it on. The light wouldn’t work though even when I flipped the switch on and off.
- I was walking around a University campus and had several encounters with different people and storylines in or near different fancy brick buildings. One mini plotline had to do with a grandfather character who had not paid taxes on the classroom land, and so the class or University was about to lose the land and was trying to figure out what to do about it.
- Another plotline had an incoming international student contact my team’s support line and ask us to look for his luggage, which he had sent here already even though he was still overseas. He said the luggage should be at the 5th or 7th lobby or something but people on my team didn’t want to actually help him out. I did though so I made preparations to go off and visit the place, even though I had no idea what the luggage would look like. The student had also seen a promotional poster of the University together with the cook cat from Monster Hunter World, and he talked about meeting the cat as though the cat was a real school employee.
- Another snippet involved me as a ghost, helping two other ghosts navigate walking across some traffic to find a place that they had to go to before dinner time.
- Yet another snippet was me walking by two professors talking about how a genius student from the past had taken on a very difficult assignment to build a supercomputer for extra credit and had actually somehow managed to finish the task, and how the school had used that machine ever since, but it was getting old and run down and needed a replacement soon.
- Another one had me explain to some people that import costs for buying CDs and clothes were high, and delivery times were uncertain. I had to walk around campus and talk to a number of people about it to explain why some of their stuff that they had ordered through the University was late.
- But there were ways to bypass that, as one or two zones in the University were package sendoff zones that were somehow exempt from tax and offered free shipping as soon as the package met certain requirements. I pressed my left palm against the right palm of a friend that I met, and told him or her that we would process a picture that they wanted to send immediately, and that their previous package that they had requested to send was already approved to send using a nearby rocky seaside, which was a free shipping zone, because the total cost of the package was over a certain threshold.
- Customers could also pick between 6 different shipping options by entering a store that looked like a small Chinese bakery and picking up one of six different buns using metallic tongs. I saw someone pick up a small, spherical bun, which I knew was shipping option 5.
- I was working at a family restaurant and we were newish but expecting some sort of important customer or group coming in at 2:45, which was the top of the hour in this dream world. I don’t remember much about the context but there was some preparation and research that we had to do, and something about students coming in now and then as well.
- Somehow related to this was a side story about how newspapers decided on the contents of their comic strips two weeks in advance of the newspaper being actually printed, and that that meant that the cartoonists had to write and number their strips two weeks in advance for the editor. This was the only way to get “early access” for reading comics, as opposed to reading them online or elsewhere. Also, this somehow meant that the first two weeks of a new comic strip’s lifespan usually involved copy-editing and font jokes because the cartoonist had no material to work with yet as they didn’t know when they were going to actually start.
Dec 18 2022
- Zixiang, I, and a third person who might have been Eugene, were hanging out at the back of our 2nd floor Dunman High classroom during the last class of the day, but we were utterly bored with the class and Zixiang suggested that we skip out of the classroom early and head off somewhere. I agreed, with the condition that we did it separately, spaced at least 1 minute apart, so it didn’t look like we were all in league with each other.
- Zixiang said it was no problem and to leave it to him. He slipped out on the pretense of going to the washroom and never returned. Eugene followed shortly after, with the teacher never noticing a thing. For my part, a commotion then took place with someone barging into the room and whining in a high-pitched voice that the school had wronged him and that he never received payments for something he did. I used this commotion to slip out, while hearing someone else tell him that the payments he was looking for were made to him via a German bank, and so he should be looking on his credit card bill for that rather than the name of the school on his bill.
- I was to meet them by the IG, but I had no idea what that was, as I had been away from the school for some time due to migrating overseas and thus had missed out on developing lingo with my classmates for the past few years. I somehow found out after a minute or two that this meant the Inner Gate, which was a gate located next to the main gate for cars, but was for pedestrians only and was right in front of the bus stop. The camera then shifted to the two of them waiting for me at the gate, and how they could see me coming along a curved path once I realized where the meeting spot was, even though the path was blocked by a row of hedges, because they could see a moving tuft of aho hair sticking out above the bushes.
- I met them at the gate and we went out to the bus stop. Zixiang was consulting a map and I asked him if we would be able to leave before the general end of day bell, which was about to ring. He said most probably so as a bus was coming right away, and it indeed did. We got on less than 10 minutes before the bell and left, making our way past an old Indian lady using a walking stick on the aisle of the bus as she tried to make her way to a seat next to an adult Indian woman that she knew.