My Diary #108

Dear Tigey,

This week, we bury studying abroad and a few other things in the backyard, but start building for future projects as well. Exciting times.

Entry #108 (Sep 03 2023)

Table of Contents

Shopping for some new…
ට  Life
ට  Games
ට  Plushie of the Week #104
ට  Song of the Week #81
ට  Writing Prompt of the Week #24
ට  Memory Snippet of the Week #88
ට  Dreams

Life

Firstly, my study abroad dream is dead, although I haven’t formally cancelled everything yet.

Next, does the blog table of contents seem shorter than usual this week? Good. Going forward, I’m permanently scrapping both School and Work as weekly topics, as part of streamlining my weekend blog-writing workflow (so I don’t have to write “not much happened!” when I really don’t have much to talk about). This is especially true since I am abandoning Sophia as a goal now, and also likely not going to take any classes this semester or anytime soon, so there’s no point in having an ongoing School section, plus part of me deciding to stay despite my misgivings about work is that I’m going to treat work as a job that earns money on the side while I work on other projects in my spare time to try to better myself, rather than as a career which I’m trying to move forward in, since I’ve hit the end of my advancement treadmill here and don’t actually seem to have a path to move forward on.

So neither one needs (or deserves) an ongoing segment, and I already occasionally skip both on quiet weeks anyway, I just wanted to formally end them. Not to say I won’t talk about either of those topics ever again — despite all I said, I might end up taking a class anyway since I only need three more to finish up my degree, or I might do something fulfilling at work that I want to highlight — I’ll put all that into Life though instead of in its own separate segments that I always feel obliged to make up some sort of comment for.

I will also occasionally start to skip the “of the week” segments as well. Half the time I know and have already decided what I want the weekly topic for my various “of the week” segments to be long before I actually reach Saturday and sit down to start writing this out — those are then easy to do as I have already mentally iterated through what I am going to write about them and can just hammer them out. Other times, I already have a list of candidates for a topic (I have such lists for Plushie, Song, and Memory Snippet, and Writing Prompt is just straight out of a book anyway) and can just pick one from there.

But sometimes, none of the options in those lists feel correct for that week, or I just don’t feel like writing on a particular topic that week, and I also did not stumble upon an item or a memory or an event that reminded me of something else. I’ve always just picked something and plowed ahead anyway, but I will stop doing so if I feel that way about a section on any given week from now on, as parts of the blog are starting to feel like a chore every week. Plushies is also reaching its temporary end soon as I only actually have so many plushies. There are still many topics I will eventually write about or showcase, though, on their own time. But for now, I estimate that this will cut down on my blogging time by about an hour a week on average, and more importantly it will cut out the most negative bits of my weekly blogging routine.

Regarding school, while I haven’t formally announced that I’m staying to my boss or my exchange coordinator yet, my Sophia dream/attempt is dead as mentioned and I will not be going there this semester. I’ve already missed some deadlines that I needed to hit to go anyway, like giving my housing apartment a notice to vacate. I took this week to talk to my boss, my parents, my friends, and my inner self, to gather their opinions from them, and I even had a mourning day on Friday where I broke down and wept bitterly for the loss of going abroad for about an hour or so, until I had to stop because I was retching. Those were tears of frustration that I didn’t know I actually had, since on every other day I actually felt pretty good about the decision to not go, but I guess there’s still some part of me that rues the decision to stay and really wanted to just pack up and go. I contemplated panic-calling my parents and asking them to support me in going (which they would have done), as I was staring at their phone contacts and shaking. Funnily enough Dad accidentally called me about an hour later and then hung up right away too.

But nah, it makes no sense whatsoever to go right now, and I think I have felt this way to some degree since returning from Kyoto and Ritsumeikan — there’s always been a part of me since I returned that DIDN’T want to go on Sophia and just wanted time to sit down and digest all the experiences I had there, and see how I could turn that into future opportunities and other interesting things while maintaining my somewhat comfortable job here. Even though I’ve visited Sophia University itself twice now to recce the place.

So, at any rate, after talking to my parents to find out their future plans, I have an appointment next week to renew my housing apartment for another year. Just like last year, I expect this to be my final year, but we will see what comes of it as always. I’ve definitely learnt and seen over the past few years that Life Happens. Just see how many times my study abroad plans have been scuttled since I’ve started this blog. Five times!

Another thing I did this week is price out a new computer. A new battlestation! Call this retail therapy if you want, but if I’m not going, I have some extra cash to put down toward a new computer that I had been holding back on getting for years because I was always going to go abroad soon anyway. And it made no sense to get a new computer until after I came back and then found a job and so on. Well, if I’m not going, and I do still have my job, then why not now? Especially during this week’s Labor Day and Labour Day sales going on at virtually all online retailers. My current rig is ten years old! I was in Primary 4 when I was 10.

Although I ordered all the parts and put them together myself the last time, I didn’t want to do that this time, so I looked around for what people call a boutique computer builder company, or a custom PC builder company, and initially settled on a US place called CyberPowerPC (local) that did ship to Canada, and purpotedly even offered free shipping. But once I had built my computer, which came out to about $1,800-$1,900 USD (or about/just under $2,500 CAD), and then threw it into the cart, it demanded an additional $109 USD for shipping via UPS Ground, and UPS (and Fedex too) is a scummy company that will try to charge a large brokerage fee to basically fill in a customs form for you on top of the shipping fee, and then there’s the actual customs fee itself (though I’m unsure as to whether buying and importing a computer from the USA incurs customs fees or not.. sites differ on this and I don’t really want to find out.)

In the end, I turned away from them, and instead went to Memory Express, which is a Canadian company and has local brick and mortar stores and also has an online Custom PC builder they call a Custom System Configurator (local). It’s a little unwieldy compared to the CyberPowerPC one, but it works, and actually gives me more options to pick from as well (though it has a lot of out of stock items listed). I priced this one out to a little over $2,500 CAD directly instead, with no foreign exchange fees to contend with (though I don’t think I have any fees with the USD one using my Scotiabank Passport Visa card regardless — but the base USD to CAD exchange rate is on the middle-high side right now), and a flat $40 CAD or so shipping with no border issues to contend with.

What’s in the $2,500 build? I priced out a GeForce RTX 4070, an i7-13700KF CPU, an MSI Pro Z790-P motherboard, 32GB of ram, a 2 TB NVMe SSD, and a 4TB regular HDD. Too many initials? Yes, that’s how the electronics market works in this age and time. Every part was obsessed over for hours to look for the best bang for my buck money- and quality-wise, over a period of 3 days, so hopefully it turns out well. I would also eventually like to pick up a 1440p monitor for about $270 CAD or so from somewhere else on sale, and a cheap keyboard because my current Logitech G710+ is really dirty and cleaning it is impossible. This keyboard will be 8 years old on September 15 this year, and there’s dust caked on it and such.

Around all that, and visits to the hospital to visit Mom and bring her some lousy home-cooked soup, I worked on scanning projects, and got a decent chunk done. Oh, a new batch of CDs arrived from my online shopping on Suruga-ya (local). Despite me saying a few weeks ago that the free shipping sale they offered seemed to be a once in a lifetime sort of sale, they proceeded to offer the same free shipping for three weekends in a row, so I bought these on the second weekend too and they arrived this week.

Hey I’m not complaining, I saved 7,750 yen, or about $72 CAD, on shipping this time around, according to the packing sheet. On top of the already discounted prices for many of the second-hand CDs. Astute eyes online noticed that they kept on bumping their prices per CD (especially the cheap CDs) up a little tiny bit each week though, and people got annoyed at that, plus the items in stock were the same since the sales were so close to each other, so I didn’t buy anything the third weekend. And then the day after the third weekend sale ended, Dad casually mentioned that he had been looking for a particular Japanese CD for years, and I looked it up on the site and hey presto, there it was for about $15 CAD or so. Whoops. They didn’t offer a fourth free shipping sale this weekend though so he’ll have to wait.

My passport also arrived early this week, with a Japanese student visa in it. Not that I’m going to be using that any longer. I wonder if it’ll cause any problems if I visit Japan later this year as a tourist. (There is a cancellation process for it but do I have to send my passport back to them to physically do something to the visa? I assume not. We’ll find out though.)

The weather this week in Edmonton was very.. cloudless. Some days hot, some days just overcast, an aftereffect from smoke drifting in from other places now and then I think. What does a cloud look like again?

Friends!

The smoke did allow for some nice pictures of the sun though, like this really high-resolution 200MP one of the setting sun from just before 8pm on Saturday.

Something weird also happened this week, which is that birds visited my balcony and stopped on my balcony bannister. I could hear them landing on it with a little thud noise and usually chirp around a bit before flying off again. If this only happened once, I could chalk it off as the vagaries of life, but this happened three times! I don’t think I’ve EVER seen a bird land on my balcony area for as long as I’ve lived here, or at least not even as frequently as once a year, and yet they stopped by three separate times in one week.

(This is not true, of course, I just forget about them. There’s one in My Diary #012, for example.)

I didn’t catch a photo the first time, early in the week, but here’s one of three of them flying off on Friday morning as I approached with a camera:

And one staring at me on Saturday morning:

They came by at least one OTHER time recently too, since I found this last weekend, conveniently spaced about a unit of measure equivalent to one bird’s derriere away from the railing:

How rude.

I also found an avocado kitty in Safeway this week:

I guess this pairs with the banana duck from last week, which was a couple of display stands over. I’m not specifically looking out/searching for them, but they are new, and I enjoyed the moment when I found the both of them.

Oh and happy Satinel Day this week! May you have another er.. fruitful year next year. And may we remain friends for all of it.

Games

I also considered junking this section, but eh, it’s a bit of a personal diary log for myself so I’ll keep it for now.

It hasn’t outlived its usefulness yet. But its time might come.

This week, I played tiny amounts of: Cult of the Lamb, Drox Operative 2, Realms of Magic, Yamafuda, Creeper World 4 (which I finally bought on sale), and Our Adventurer Guild, which I also bought on sale as I liked the sound of it, but I found a lot of typoes in the game so I instead sat down and started to go through and report them instead of really playing the game. I had a nice, brief conversation with the developer due to this though as he emailed me to thank me, and he fixed all of them by the next day. But all in all I think I spent less than an hour a day on solo games on average this week.

I think I played Streets of Rogue with Satinel practically every day this week though, and each session runs for two to three hours in the evening. I’m almost done completing my class quests for all the different classes in the game, and probably will do so just in time for my new computer to arrive, at which time maybe we’ll move on to bigger and better games together for a bit.

On the phone, I poked at a game called Campfire Cat Cafe, which was cute enough as an idle game, but it was laden with too many ads for various things that you could do, and there was no reasonable “buy this one-time $5 bundle to get rid of all ads!” offer anywhere — instead they did offer purchases to permanently get rid of ads but split up the different types of ads into different $20 or so packages (I forget the exact amounts), each of which had other currency bonuses and random rubbish that I didn’t care for in the packages to jack up the price. So to remove all the ads would have cost around $70 CAD. I basically deemed it garbage for that and uninstalled the game on the third day.

Although I dislike the idea of renting games on the PC (i.e. things like Microsoft’s XBox Game Pass), I am actually thinking of picking up a free one month trial for the Google Play Store version of it, which would unlock a lot of premium mobile games, largely a bunch of RPGs that I want to try but tend to flake out on after a couple weeks and have no intention of ever coming back to play most of them once I move on anyway. And if I liked it then I might even subscribe for a year just so I can surf across mobile games at my leisure. Though mobile games are generally things I play in the toilet, on the train/bus, or in bed at night before sleep, and none of them really allow for long gameplay sessions.

I hadn’t decided on that yet though, so I spent the latter part of the week poking at another phone game, Idoly Pride: Idol Manager, which is based upon (and follows the ending of) an anime that I have watched. Oddly, it seems to be more of an idle game (log off and come back to offline rewards later) than an idol game (which tend to be rhythm games, which I actually don’t like).

Plushie of the Week #104 – Pink Fox

This tiny pink fox is the third of four plushies that I picked up while in Seoul, South Korea in 2014. I’ve given a page to two of the others in the past, Mew in PotW #61 and Pink Beluga in PotW #62, and one in the future with Seoul Turtle in PotW #112, but this one I don’t have anything in the way of stories or thoughts about. But she’s been a bedside stalwart for forever, and I think she’s adorable. I mean what’s not to like about her? She’s a tiny pink fox!

This is a picture I linked back in PotW #61, but it’s the earliest picture I have of all four plushies, all of whom I bought on July 30th 2014 in Seoul, and likely all from Lotte World Adventure or some other nearby mall there to boot.

Front:

Back/Side:

Underside:

Phone strap/cord, which I wish was a little smaller:

Tail tag front:

Tail tag back:

She also initially came attached to a stiff cardboard “certificate” (合格证) tag that looked like this. Front:

Back:

Googling up Yi Xin Gong Zai gives this Instagram post (local), which is some weird video clip about another plushie from the same “line” (since it also has the same cord strap, just a blue version thereof). That video location-drops Singapore, but this one was from Seoul for sure. The characters 伊心公仔 together Google into a handful of Chinese store sites with plushies, but I don’t actually know what the phrase means.

Oh well, she’s cute, and she’s part of Tigey‘s plushie army.

Song of the Week #81

Title: Across the Universe
Artist: Fiona Apple
Album: Pleasantville (1998)

Not to be confused with the other Across the Universe song that I’ve featured, this is a Fiona Apple cover of a Beatles song — I vastly prefer this version though. There’s something about the way her voice drips silkily, and the lethargy which she floats through the song, that makes the song very poignant and meaningful and perfect to me somehow. I can see a triad of three shooting stars twirling with each other as they hurtle their way through an endless cosmic void that neither assists nor condemns them, glowing and shining with passion that will one day extinguish. The universe is beautiful and cold.

Funnily enough, although this is a 1998 song, this is not one of those nostalgia-laden 1998 songs to me like the other two dozen or so late 90s songs that I’ve featured so far. I don’t think I actually even started to like the song until maybe around 2010 or so. Oh, and while I started my all-encompassing Spotify playlist on Oct 29 2012, I didn’t add this song to it until Dec 03 2013, so that’s probably an indication as to when I finally fell in love to the song. So to me, this song simply reminds me of my current Edmonton 4012 home, specifically sitting here at this very computer and listening to the song.

The music video is actually familiar to me, which is weird since I haven’t had a TV for a long time, never mind watch music video channels, nor do I really watch them much online either, but I must have looked it up online at some point in the distant past.

The reason why this song came up this week though, besides it kind of feeling like an apt statement about the crashing down of my plans to go study abroad, is that I was listening to (and backing up) one of the new CDs (local) that I bought, and one of the non-single songs on that CD is a version of exactly this song. It’s not a very good rendition at all, sad to say, largely because the Japanese are very terrible with their enunciation of English words.

Writing Prompt of the Week #24

This week’s writing prompt reads:

“The most memorable family holiday was…”

What the hell is the difference between this and My Diary #098‘s “My favourite childhood vacation was…”? Sure the words are different, and you could twist them so the meanings are slightly different too, “it doesn’t have to be a vacation somewhere” sort of rubbish, but come now, the questions are essentially identical.

Next.

“Word association exercise: don’t think, just write! What person comes to mind when you hear the word “hero”? Why?”

I’m perhaps slightly sorry to say that I don’t think that there’s a real life person who has ever done something for or to me that was so maganimously and stupendously helpful that I think of them as my hero. Similarly, I don’t think that way of anyone in the world that has done something either for humanity at large or for someone I care about, to such an extent that I would think of them with that title either. There are lots of people I like, but none that I would append the title hero to… yet.

So to me, it’s a fantasy character, Yuuki Yuuna (or Yuki Yuna), the titular character from Yuki Yuna is a Hero. It’s an anime that I’ve watched and really liked, as the hover text above will tell you. And it’s where I got the title of this blog, the Hero Diary, from. See this page for more about that. The show talks about the things one has to personally do to live a good life, as well as mixes a Slice of Life theme together with gorgeous magical girl costumes and themes of self-sacrifice to save the world and all you consider dear, and well, I like that sort of thing a lot.

So the character comes to mind when I think of the word hero partly because her name is directly linked to the title of the show, and partly because of the acrylic stand of her in front of me as I write this, encouraging me to be the best person and do the best things. I’ve posted about this stand before, both when I first bought it on Oct 24 2022 during my first Japan trip, and then again in My Diary #074 after I got home and unpacked it. It’s still perched below and to the side of my main monitor.

Memory Snippet of the Week #88

I’ve never had to do after-school tuition or anything like that, and I’m not really sure (both within the context of Singapore and within the context of North America) whether that’s the exception or the norm. In parts of some other countries like Japan and China, it seems to be part of the local culture to do so, though, especially if you want to get in to a “good” school. From Grade 4 through 12, I’ve always been in the advanced study stream of whatever country and school I’ve been in though — the Gifted Education Programme (GEP) in Singapore from Primary 4 to 6 in Rosyth and Secondary 1-2 (Grades 7-8) in Dunman, the Academic Challenge (AC) Program in Grade 9 in Vernon Barford, and International Baccalaureate from Grades 10-12 in McNally.

Does that mean I was a great student scholastically? Not really, outside of Math, but I never really put a ton of effort into studying either, just enough to get along, and my parents never hounded me to try to get the top grade in class or anything like that. Just to do well in general. I did like school and the concept of studying in general and never skipped classes or homework or anything like that either, which helped. Except in Math 31 in Grade 12, where the teacher said homework was optional and so I never did them since I understood all the stuff already.

During Grade 9 in 1999, I got a 100% for Math on my final report card, despite only being there for half a year, and despite even not having a graphing calculator (the Texas Instruments TI-83 Plus at the time) for the provincial final exam. Why without a graphing calculator? Because they were resetting calculators to ensure that there no one brought in things to cheat with on the device, and I didn’t want the games on my calculator to be reset, so I left my phone in my bag and just brought a regular calculator into the examination hall, which was wild.

There was one question that required graphing to plot out which value, when plugged into the given equation, would give a particular answer, but I finished everything else with plenty of time to spare, so I started throwing numbers into the equation that we were supposed to graph, and then simply raised or lowered the value until I found the exact number that gave the desired value. It worked!

I said that I got 100% after that provincial final exam, but I don’t think I actually got 100% on that specific exam. Instead, I remember carrying a 107% course average into that final exam because our Math teacher had earlier granted everyone a 10% boost in the midterm or something because the class average was so low. I had scored a 97% on that exam though, so I ended up with a 107% on that, which was the majority of our grade for the year. And he did occasionally give out bonus marks on quizzes and papers, and I usually scored close to perfect on those as well. So whatever I ended up getting on that provincial final exam was good enough that I hit (or possibly slightly exceeded) 100% for the year.

Anyway, while that was an interesting memory snippet, the one I actually wanted to write down this week was that way back in Yishun 723, so around 1995 or so, I was doing badly enough in Chinese that instead of after-school tuition, my parents hired a tutor to come to our house once a week, on the weekend, and we would sit down at the large dining table just outside the kitchen. You can see part of one of the chairs of the dining table in question in My Diary #101, specifically in this picture:

She would then teach me Chinese for an hour or two. I have no idea who she was or where my parents found her, but I think my parents paid her something like $20 to $40 a weekend or somewhere around there. I don’t recall what the sessions were like, but I imagine it had to do with doing Chinese homework or reviewing past homework or the textbook. I’m not sure, as most of that part of my life is now a black hole.

I also recall teaching someone else Math at that table, but I forget what the context of that was — was it that same mystery girl? Or someone else that came to our house? I don’t think THAT arrangement lasted for very long, as I don’t recall doing it very often (nor do I recall actually having the interest to become a tutor).

Dreams
Aug 28 2023
  • One snippet I remember involved a road trip, where a group of people from a faction that was unfriendly to us were lugging an oil tanker and a bunch of smaller attached vehicles in a convoy along the highway from one location to another distant location. We had snuck two people who could not travel by themselves into two different shopping carts that were attached to the convoy of twelve vehicles, although they were in something like vehicles 11 and 13, and although several rank and file guards along with the patrol had tried to alert the commanding officer of this, he refused to listen to them as he was too busy and so they all took off anyway.
  • Partway along the trip, he discovered the extra/tampered vehicles though, and detached and abandoned them during a pit stop before taking off again with the convoy. A bunch of people from my faction were following them, and we retrieved the carts, with a grandpa character taking one of them and swearing revenge on the commanding officer for abandoning someone he beloved as he ran off on foot along an alternate highway toward the original destination. It was about 21 km to the destination city and we wondered if he had enough stamina, but he sure had the speed to run as fast as the moving traffic and dodging and weaving between the vehicles with the shopping cart. A friendly van trailed him just in case, while everyone else followed the original route with the other cart.
  • I was also on board the trailer, along with Mart and apparently at least one other person we mutually knew, as the two of them caused an explosion at another pit stop to slow down the convoy. I was not involved with that, and was in the commanding room with the second in command as he told the commanding officer that at least two of the other ten soldiers in the convoy were spies planted by the enemy and had caused the explosion. They tried to figure out who while I stood around ready to warn Mart and his friend if they were compromised.
  • Another dream snippet I had involved a class at school where a male teacher that I knew was teaching Japanese, and giving an oral interview test to a student outside a classroom. I was nearby and had a test myself later, so I overheard part of it, but the most interesting thing that came out from that was that I heard that the teacher had denied that a certain book character had a first name and had always said that it was weird but unofficial that the community referred to him by a first name that he never found in a book. But this female student had actually found the reference in the book where his name was passingly mentioned twice, and showed it to the teacher, who made a face and said that she was right. This book seemed to be a Japanese adaptation of The Great Gatsby.
  • Later on, that teacher had become Dad, and late in the night, he was met by about four or five students in the classroom who were on a dare to ask him about this book and character and whether it was true he used to think the character had no first name but had eventually found out otherwise. He examined the dare, which was written down on a piece of paper, said that he would be happy to verify the existence of the story, but asking for an explanation of the answer was not okay as that info would give away part of his actual course’s homework answers. He cited Mom as an example of a long-ago student who was in a different course stream and had asked the question too and only got a yes/no answer as well to verify whether something like the story existed.
Aug 31 2023
  • I remember a scene where I was visiting a rental home that my parents’ were staying in, and at some point I was in Mom‘s bedroom when I felt the floor sag beneath me and give way. My feet fell through the floor, landing on some paper on top of a wooden shelf in the apartment beneath ours. The hole that opened beneath me was about one by four feet wide, and I could see the bedroom and bed of the unit beneath us, as well as some sort of spare room.
  • The owner of the unit below, a middle-aged Chinese woman, came to look curiously at us when she heard the commotion, and upon seeing the hole, went out the door and came up the stairs to my parents’ front door and into the house to examine the damage from within. I apologized for that and said that I had kind of expected this to happen as the floorboards felt wrong and soggy somehow. I said I’d help my parents pay for the cost of repairs if the rental apartment’s landlord charged them for it, although there was a chance that they’d just fix it themselves.
  • The woman from downstairs was friendly and the chat we had was amiable, but at one point she looked at some marks on my left foot and said that those look familiar, and then asked if I had diabetes. I said that I took some pills to keep it down and she said that she did as well.
  • The dream also involved me visiting a couple of schools’ sports days, one in Kel‘s current school, and then Kel pulled me aside and invited me to one from one of her previous primary schools as well that she said she was going to visit. Jon and his girlfriend also came along and we were on a train travelling to one of these locations at some point, when they hopped on but left the train door open as it moved along. I told the girl to close the door so no one fell out.
  • Another snippet I had is visiting a school cafeteria of some sort, except it was laid out like fast food stalls in a mall food court. I noticed that a store that I usually visited with rice and noodle dishes had a weird new burger dish with something that looked like spicy chicken that looked interesting, though I had no idea why they would be selling something like that. It was also extremely cheap, something like $1.99, and I did need something to eat, so I ordered one.
  • Finally, at one point there was a top-down grid-based game that I was playing, which took place in the “real world”, but the entire floor of the room I was in was covered in a grid of small squares. I had three pieces on the floor which were people on my team, and my enemy had three larger pieces, which were one boss mob and two troll-like minions. I didn’t like the matchup and tried to flee, which in the game involved me picking up the pieces and tossing them across the floor toward the exit. My opponent did the same with the two minions, to chase me, at which point I realized that one of the minions had landed in between my three pieces and was ripe for killing, which I did so. We then turned and defeated the other one as well, leaving just the boss back where it had been.

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