To the stars we go! Or at least, to the rising sun.
Entry #096 (May 07 2023)
My main note that fits here but not in the other blog post that I will talk about below is that I received an award for the RSJP that I will be attending in Kyoto. There were five $750 CAD awards being given out, and six of us going, and I believe one of the students wasn’t going to be there for the entire duration of the trip so she wouldn’t have qualified for it anyway. So as long as I had applied for it, which I did, I was most likely a shoo-in to bag one of them anyway.
They sent the notification for this in the evening on May 04th, with instructions to return a signed copy of the acceptance letter by May 10th. This is way late — I know two of the six students have stated that they were already in Japan travelling around prior to the start of the program — but whatever, at least a digitally signed copy was an option. I finished that and submitted the form.
Apparently the attached strings to this include needing to send them a copy of my boarding passes, as well as “a written commentary of at least 500 words on the highlights of my experience abroad and how the Award and experience as a whole have affected me, my future plans, and/or my goals”, by Tuesday June 20, eleven days after the program ends and six days after I land back home. That’s a rather tight deadline, though I’m not particularly worried about it. Have you seen the length of these blog posts?
My boss, Ronnie, succinctly described this six week break that I was taking, on our last one-on-one meeting on Wednesday afternoon before I checked out of work for the next six weeks, as a “dry run” for me being gone for good in the fall. We talked and reminisced about a lot of things, including how we both (and nearly everyone else on the team) had been here for so long already. He described our jobs as ten-year jobs, since that’s about how long the bumps on our salary scale keep increasing for, and while I did voice out loud that I would stay if they gave me a three grade bump in my salary so I had more room to grow into and outpace inflation, he knew and I know that that isn’t a thing that can happen, due to idiotic HR/leadership and union contracts. Still, I noted to him that I had to say it, and he agreed and said it was duly noted.
I also refused to manually change my timesheet to match the 80 hour limit in banked time that HR had flagged me for last week — the timesheet program (we use one of the modules in PeopleSoft) had still listed me as having 147 hours of banked time as central HR hadn’t changed it yet after flagging me, so I also went ahead and claimed 147 hours worth of banked time usage over the next 3 weeks, and then charged everything else to regular vacation time. I do barely have enough vacation time anyway so I’m sure they’ll change it over, but they didn’t re-flag it again until Thursday, by which time I was actually on my break itself, so it’s no longer my problem. HR wants to be idiots, HR can do the work. It’s ludicrous how the University treats its employees as enemies.
As part of the “dry run” of me being gone, Ronnie also transferred off my Knowledge Base manager duties this week. I had been maintaining our spreadsheet of KBs and occasionally updating them or bugging other people to update them as needed, and this never ultimately really took up a lot of time, but did occasionally take up a lot of effort to do because they were always deemed low priority compared to literally everything else we had to do, but also had to be done eventually anyway. One of (work) life’s many paradoxes.
I finished the paperwork to claim my PlusTek printer against my Personal Spending Account this year, but I haven’t submitted it yet because I don’t know if they’re going to pay out the 67 hours of overflow overtime I did this paycheck or not. I’m trying to minimize the tax I pay on the upcoming paycheck, since the extra overtime payout would likely put me in a higher tax bracket for that paycheck, and adding this PSA rebate on top of it would probably inflate that even further as well, since that also goes onto the raw paycheck. I don’t know for sure it’s better to wait, though, but I’d rather wait.
There is already (or will be, I haven’t started it yet) a separate blog post for my pre-trip travels and planning, so this blog post is for everything else that happened this week that doesn’t fit into that post. Also, Tigey finally had his bath, protesting every step of the way.
Still, there are some trip-related things that end up here because they just aren’t significant enough to put in there. I bought a decently nice fake-leather backpack that converts into a shoulder sling bag, for one, and that cost me $120.75, so it better be worth it. Everything in Southgate tends to be really expensive, even when I go for things from smaller independent stores instead of the big pricey ones, and it’s rare to find a bag I really agree with (and I’m not fully convinced of this one yet), but I did need a bag replacement since the old pink one (the bottom right one in the picture from the end of my last trip, under the “Regarding the things I brought along” section) was becoming a little worn down, and is crinkly and weird to boot. This one, from a ompany/brand named Pixie Mood, claims to be mostly make of recycled bottle lining, and is 100% vegan and cruelty-free.
I learnt this week that Rambalac, a content creator who does walking videos in Japan and has been a big inspiration for me over the past couple years in making it to Japan, seems to no longer be filming new videos anymore due to depression (local). There’s been an outpouring of support for him in YouTube and in his Discord server. Whether he ever comes back to make more videos or not, I wish him the best.
My election papers were mailed out on May 3rd and arrived on May 4th. Very prompt mail delivery, and I appreciated this since May 6th would have been the last day that I could have handed the ballot in before I left the country. I also scanned everything I could, of course. I did have to go photocopy my ID card because I needed to include that with my ballot return envelope, so that was a slightly annoying task to have to do on my last day in Canada, but so be it. I went to the library to do this, for 10 cents, and then submitted my ballot in the mail.
Allen texted me over WhatsApp this week and asked if I would be available on Friday to meet for dinner as he was actually in town with his family. Unfortunately, that was just one day before I left for Vancouver, where he ironically resides at, and then to Tokyo after that, so I had to turn him down. We resolved to meet in the future again though when things lined up better.
The weather was great this week, and one of the things I did to take advantage of this was to go to Mill Woods Town Centre, a “nearby” mall and transit centre that used to be the local mall when I lived in Edmonton 4012. From my current patron mall and attached transit centre, Southgate, there used to be a couple of buses that went there directly, and it used to take about 30 minutes or so of the bus slowly trudging along.
Those buses’ routes seem to have changed though, and as far as I can see, there is no longer a direct bus that goes there, and the shortest journey takes about 45 minutes now, and requires a transfer from a train or a bus to another bus. That’s insane. The two transit centers are relatively near by each other, and yet there’s no longer any buses that go from one to the other. What is our urban planning/transit department doing?
Anyway, I hadn’t been back to Mill Woods since COVID hit, and possibly a couple of years before that even, so a lot had changed since I last went there. For one, the bus transit center itself had shifted about 100 meters away, from one side of the library building that stood right next to the transit centre, to the other side of it, so the fancy front doors of the library now face the wrong direction, away from the new transit centre and toward the old, now-deserted one, and it’s pretty hilarious. Oh well. The bus terminal itself looked fancy, at least.
The reason that the bus portion of the transit centre had moved was apparently to be next to the Mill Woods LRT Station, which was fully built and had an idling train there when I walked around the outside of the area, but the line itself still isn’t due to open until the gods only know when. It was meant to open in 2020, and has been pushed back further and further due to poor planning despite the line itself being fully built. The buildings are going to get old before they ever see transit ridership.
The mall itself was.. not totally deserted yet, but not exactly bustling either. There were people in the central regions of the mall, but the side wings of the mall and the shops on any outer side of the mall other than the one nearest the bus terminals were empty or shuttered or just plain suffering. Hopefully if the station ever is opened, the mall might see a resurgence in population again. This area, and the area just offscreen to the middle right where the food court is, were the “active” population areas of the mall. I like the domed skylight quite a bit.
We had our first warm, breezy evenings on Wednesday and Thursday, and it was a joy to take a late evening walk around the neighbourhood. Here’s the moon being really big on Thursday night. It was larger than the lamppost lights I tried to compare it to in this picture, but with the phone camera, it just looks like it’s exactly the same size, and is masquerading as one of those roadside lights despite not having an accompanying pole.
And here’s a rabbit that allowed me to get somewhat close until a car drove by and scared it away.
My walks this week reminded me of this mood piece, a scene from episode 4 of a currently airing anime, Kimi wa Houkago Insomnia:
This is a truth that I’ve also mentioned in the past, and part of the theory and practice of finding mindfulness in everyday life to me. I see it when I look up in the vast sky full of pretty clouds, arranged in a certain configuration only visible to me and those near me, and never again.
Honkai Star Rail is still the game du jour for me, although I’m nearing the end of the third world now, which is the end of the currently released content, so the urge to play has thankfully been slowing down, just in time for me to actually go abroad. It’s great though, and while it plays very similarly to Genshin Impact in terms of the (flawed, to me) character upgrade systems and the myriad of things I need to farm to upgrade my characters, Star Rail at least is a lot easier to farm in because the game is turn-based, and so it includes an auto-combat button for most of the battles. The AI is bad, but that’s okay, since I can always wrest control back mid-fight.
The game looks like it will be on about a 6 week patch cycle, so there should be more new content ready for me once I return from Kyoto. Nice timing! As per the developer’s other games, there’s a lot of solid slice of life style storytelling with interesting, tight, and poignant tales, some with happy endings, some with sad endings, and some with really no endings at all yet. I have always loved their stories and characters, though there’s a bit too much lore shoved into some of these zones and I can’t bring myself to do more than skim many of the books and lore pamphlets strewn around the place.
One weak part of their storytelling though is that there’s often not enough change in the NPC static conversations as you progress your story in that part of the world. Not to say that there is none at all, and there have been some changes in some of the zones that have surprised and delighted me, but a lot of the filler NPCs in the zones feel far too static. This felt less pronounced in Genshin since that’s open world and the player by definition tends to wander all over the place, but in Star Rail the zones are much smaller chunks of explorable space, so this particular drawback really feels amplified to me.
Also the gacha draw rate for 5-star characters is as horrendous as ever, and endless piles of useless trash get drawn in the pursuit of one or two characters with 0.6% draw rate chance or whatever. That being said, I did notice that I had some survey money from Google Opinion Rewards, the Google survey phone app that ties in to my Google Play Store balance, that was due to expire in early July, so I bought the one thing I didn’t mind buying and also have bought the Genshin equivalent of in the past — the one month subscription that gives me a little bit of gacha currency each day that I log in, and a little bit of other stuff on top of it. It cost $7.34 CAD after tax and came out entirely from that Google Play Store balance. It’s nice to be able to buy that and even check in on the phone when I primarily play on my PC.
But the game is great, and playing the Trailblazer (the name for the male/female player character) feels great, she has lots of funny dialogue options that allow her to be played as a friendly goody-too-shoes, a combative thug, or a halfway-insane, derpy lunatic at times, and it’s a delight wading through the game and seeing how people react to things even if it’s all quite linear. And I live for lines like this:
It makes me appreciate my friends so much more.
Talking about phone games, I learnt this week that the Princess Connect Re:Dive phone game shut down on April 30 2023. This was only announced on March 30th, apparently, and I don’t actively play the game anymore, nor do I follow gacha game news, so I had completely missed out on that until it was gone. While it’s not a huge blow since I haven’t played the game in about two years and I’m not sure I ever actually spent anything on the game itself (I might have spent a little Google Rewards money, I’m not sure, but I wouldn’t have paid for gacha rolls), I did strongly er.. connect to two of the characters there, Djeeta (local) and Nozomi (local), and because I played that game for quite a few months on and off, it feels a bit like some minor acquaintances died without me ever getting the chance to say goodbye to them. I even used Nozomi as a model at some point when experimenting with creating a tulpa and needing some sort of mental image to do so. Oh well. Fly free and sing free.
In the meantime, I’ll instead follow the celestial train through an endless galaxy of sparkling stars and chase my dreams in Japan. Oh, and I picked up Persona 5 Royal for the trip over there instead of all the other games that I already had, though I’ve played the first two bosses or so of the game on the Playstation 4 already.
I don’t really expect to have any good dreams over the next month or so, and I probably won’t have time to write them down even if I do, but I will collate them and post them all in one go once I return. In the meantime, here’s some dreams from this week.
May 02 2023
- I was in a home that looked similar ot our Yishun 723 home, except the kitchen was where our bedroom was. Mom was in the kitchen, and Dad was on the hall computer, while I was in the living room somewhere behind him. Jon had left the building recently, and Kel was doing her homework in one of the side rooms.
- The time was 3:45 pm, and at 4pm was normally something called NHL time, which had nothing to do with hockey but involved either me or us children being able to use the computer. But Kel was usually the one that triggered NHL time for the family, and she was currently busy with her homework, so I wasn’t sure if she would be able to do it.
- The alternate way to trigger NHL time was to turn on a night light in the corridor between the computer and the kitchen. This little night light was the same one we had outside our bedrooms in Edmonton 4012. Even though that passageway was pitch black, I wasn’t sure if Dad would be able to see me if I went directly there though, as I would have to cross into the field of peripheral vision on his left side, so if he happened to glance left for any reason he would see me.
- However, there was a different passageway leading from the living room, through an offscreen bedroom around where Kel was doing her homework, and then leading into that same corridor via a doorway directly opposite the kitchen, so I retreated and instead decided to use that passageway if I needed to instead. However, I wouldn’t use it until 4pm or slightly after, to avoid suspicion. Apparently Nak had made that passageway some time ago.
- In the meantime, I busied myself planning out a trip. Dad was going to take me out to see houses or apartments for sale or rent at some point soon, but now that it was spring, I was also looking forward to visiting an open-air flea market that I had visited once in another dream in the past. This was apparently a market in Clementi that likely opened Saturdays and Sundays now that the weather was good. I figured I could get Dad to bring me to see a house near there, solely for the ulterior motive of stopping off at that market afterwards.
- Editor: I remember this market, but I’m not sure what dream it was that I visited it in before. It would have to be a long time ago though. The closest I could find with using a keyword search is a dream from Aug 05 2018, but that snippet is really short so I’m not sure. I do remember that this was a two-storey building with market stalls selling various sundries on the first floor in a rather haphazard floor plan layout, and a couple of sets of stairs leading up to a single entrance to a hall on the second level. In that hall were more vendor stalls and maybe some sort of exhibition as well.
May 04 2023
- I dreamt that we were outdoors somewhere and a bunch of us fell from somewhere onto a patch of ground that was made up of packed snow, with a sewer full of icky water underneath the snow. The 8 or so of us were lying prone on the snow with the understanding that if we struggled around too much, the snow would break and we would all fall the 1 or 2 feet or so into the dirty water below, and the more we struggled the dirtier we were likely going to get. I don’t know how this resolved, but I do remember I was near the edge of this and had a backpack with me to boot so I gently pulled myself up onto the backpack so that it was underneath of me.
- Later, I was at a nearby outdoor train station, waiting for a train on the platform, when I glanced over to a woman and her toddler standing next to me, just in time to see the toddler climb onto the top of the railing separating the platform from the outside world as the woman chatted obliviously on her cellphone. The toddler jumped off the railing, landing in a bunch of snow behind the platform and eight feet below us, as the mother cried out in horror.
- I immediately pulled out my own phone and offered to call the ambulance, but the woman used her own phone to call the police instead, which also came with the ambulance. We also noticed that the toddler was moving his arms and legs around fine, but he didn’t stand up and we didn’t go down to pick him up either. When the police arrived, I was interviewed to get my version of the events, as the mother had not seen what had happened and I was the only eyewitness to the moment that the toddler clambered up and jumped. His name was Cecil, or some other five letter C- name, and he turned out to be fine.
- Snippet: Later on, I was in a building where I met a brown guy and his baby, the latter of whom was crawling around in a corridor. I said that she was cute. The father said that he was looking for the public toilets and I pointed the both of them in the direction of the washrooms.
- Snippet: I was on the third level of a temple which was lined with rooms that resembled classrooms, and a corridor with stone tables and chairs set in the middle of it connecting all the rooms and stairs. There were hockey games going on in each room — Carolina had defeated New York Islanders 5-4 in one of them, and New Jersey was losing 15-0 in another room, the reason for the latter apparently being that they had to play a random amateur goalie with a Chinese name that night as their regular goaltenders were injured, and he had given up 15 goals on 21 shots.
- Anyway, I was helping myself and/or my team escape the building, and the way I was doing that was by sneaking my way along the corridor behind the tables and chairs, outside of the “aggro radius” of the people who were inside the rooms, and rolling an apple along the ground as I did so. Everytime I rolled the apple a certain distance without stopping, I had the option to teleport anything I owned with me. I used this to teleport a backpack along, since teleporting anything else while in the midst of sneaking out would draw too much attention.
- Snippet: Lastly, I was in the Yishun 723 living room with my family and several other people, and there were several computers and monitors lined up against the wall to my right and behind me, on both sides of where the kitchen entrance would have been. We were doing a task that for some reason had us all stand up and shift over to the next computer in line every now and then. One of the people there was a woman who was also an interior designer, and she had helped us set up one of the computers, a PC with a Mac monitor, and shortly after she left the room we found that her monitor was not actually connected into the PC next to it, but its wires went under some cable casing running across the floor and into another large computer in the center of the room that we all had thought was not connected to anything.
May 05 2023
- I was part of a group of escaped prisoners or convicts from somewhere, we all had character sheets and possibly some powers or abilities but I don’t remember details of that. I do remember our story was part of a larger novel being written, and at one point I was tempted to “flip ahead” to see what characters were still around as it looked like the plot could be diverging.
- Despite being escapees, all four to six or so of us had to go back to a special rectangular room in the middle of nowhere at the end of the day to level up. Although we were often silent in that room, there were at least two instances of mild jealousy between the people in there, one example being one evening when someone who reminded me of Justin from McNally brought back a new girl to the group and they stood really closely to each other against the wall while he looked over her character sheet during the levelling up process. Another girl who reminded me of Angela from McNally, and who was the Justin character’s informal girlfriend, saw this, then hesitated a bit and didn’t want to approach them, but I saw this and pulled her close to the group as well and helped her look over her sheet until the Justin character was done helping out the other girl, at which point he came to silently counsel the Angela character too.
- During the day, I hung out with Zixiang, who was also one of the other escapees and who seemed determined to break the story by trying to get us to strike off on our own. We completed a couple of quests together with a couple of the other convicts, but as it approached a 6pm meeting that we had back at our home base, he suggested that we all stay out instead and strike out in the other direction. If it didn’t work out, we could always still go back before curfew at 11pm.
- Zixiang recounted a story of the crime that he was captured for. He was an assassin working undercover as a carriage driver, and he had finally been left alone with his target, a fat, rich, spoiled nobleman. He helped the nobleman up into the carriage but injected his neck with something as he did so, and the nobleman felt a weird sensation and commented on it but didn’t realize what had happened. He continued up into the carriage and died shortly thereafter in there.
- At one point, the four of us were with a god who was a tall man with an ability which was super hearing, and we were attacked by another god who was a little leprechaun or gremlin dressed in green, and whose ability was super speed. The feud seemed to be between the two gods, but the hearing god who was accompanying us seemed uncaring of our fates, and left us to fight the minions that the speed god threw at us, and who were all also very quick. But we managed to defeat them anyway. The speed god then came out to taunt the hearing god by running up behind him and hitting him and then running away before the other god could react, even though the other god’s super hearing meant that he knew the speed god was coming.
- Snippet: Somewhere much earlier in the story, a group of students were playing Truth or Dare and one guy was dared to kiss the nipple of one of the girls underneath her top. He hesitated at this but one of the players, who was an Asian international student who didn’t have the best English, volunteered for this and lifted up her sweater to present to him her shirt so he could kiss her through that. The intention of the dare was to kiss a girl’s bared skin, but it was worded poorly and he realized from her action that that offered a less embarrassing way out while still technically fulfilling the dare, so he did so.
- Snippet: At another point, a group of people were on a bridge and being recorded for a show. One of the guys held a comically large chemistry flask with a narrow neck and wide base that needed to be refilled with water from the river below, and he jumped over the edge of the bridge to plummet toward the river below, much to the shock of everyone else present. As everyone ran to the side of the bridge to look down at his impending splotch below, they saw that he also had a parachute and managed to deploy it a split second before he hit the surface of the water, and the deployment of the parachute caused him to hover momentarily inches above the shallow water surface before dropping into it safely. He used that brief moment to scoop up water with his flask, before triumphantly shedding the parachute and making his way up again.