My Diary #126

Dear Tigey,

Let’s buy a secret fort together!

Entry #126 (Jan 07 2024)

Table of Contents

Here’s to a better…
ට  Life
ට  Games
ට  Plushie of the Week #122
ට  Song of the Week #99
ට  Writing Prompt of the Week #42
ට  Memory Snippet of the Week #106
ට  Dreams

Life

On New Year’s Day, apparently there was someone going around lighting dumpsters on fire in the neighbourhood. This linked Reddit thread talks about it and added some pictures of the firebug that they (not me!) somehow captured. Nonetheless, I wanted to archive them here:

I recognized that dumpster because it’s near my apartment, so I went downstairs and took some pictures in the morning too:

Pleasant weather, bright blue sky, late morning moon, burnt-out dumpster, just another winter day in Edmonton.

I went out on Tuesday since the first Tuesday of every month is discount day at the local Safeway, and I saw a snow rabbit being very confused at the lack of snow on the ground to camouflage and burrow in, and some nice clouds:

Then I came back and fought with my upstairs neighbours again. As expected, their noise level rose this week from the lower levels of the previous week. Of what I can surmise, from overhearing the screams of the crazy woman upstairs as well as one conversation they had with Denise, the general manager of the apartment complex, when they were on their 4th floor balcony and Denise was downstairs in the courtyard (after I reported them for another yelling fight between the man and the woman and furniture being thrown around), the girl’s dad passed away recently or something and I’m guessing that she had been away over the holidays for that. I have little sympathy or empathy for them at this point though.

She came back on Tuesday but didn’t seem to be there the rest of the week, not only because I heard no more tantrums but because they react differently when I prod the ceiling with my broom. I did fight with who I think is the guy still residing upstairs pretty much every day this week, but his response is more muted, he tends to get noisier in retaliation too but he doesn’t stomp on the ground, and prefers to turn up his stereo music or whatever nonsense instead. He also seems to clean the house multiple times a day (they both did, when they were both here), and he’s the culprit keeping me up at night by constantly pacing back and forth on creaky floorboards and going out to the balcony for smokes at 1am and 2am and occasionally dropping things on the floor though, and also woke me up at 8-9 am twice times this week from dropping something loud on the ground after keeping me up late the night before.

I have been having trouble concentrating on doing anything for vast swathes of the day because it always sounds like they are having anger management or OCD issues and there’s a constant bombardment of noise above me, and the management is doing nothing about those noise terrorists. And yet they go ballistic the moment I even so much as tap on the ceiling. Oddly, there’s a spate of colder weather coming next week and I’m looking forward to that because it means they will likely have their balcony door open less, and/or will suffer more when they go out to do their chain smoking. I’m looking forward to that. But for now I just toss a poke at the ceiling every now and then when they’re making noise (I never instigate the noise) to keep them riled up so they will leave the first chance they have, while I turn up the volume on whatever I’m doing so I don’t have to hear their retaliation. At least they seem to have stopped going to the management office in tears to complain about it.

I did find some time to work on my Dream Diary a bit though, finishing August 2017. I’m not going to give every single update as I go along on this resolution, but it felt nice to at least be a little productive this week. Next week, work starts up again — a two week vacation around Christmas always feels “right”, not too short, but not too long either.

My new external hard drive came on Tuesday, two days earlier than forecasted. As per its Fedex tracking, it actually could have come one day earlier, on New Year’s Day itself, and was supposedly on a truck there (or scheduled to be on one), but suffered a “Delivery Exception”. According to various pages on the Fedex website, apparently there’s a pretty wide definition for a “Delivery Exception”, including: inclement weather, natural disaster, a vehicle issue like a flat tire, customs delays, holidays, strikes, bad weather, no one was there to receive your package at delivery, missing documentation, security restrictions, business closed, and more. That’s a pretty wide range of errors. I’m going to assume the Jan 1st holiday was at fault here, but it’s a pretty audacious leap of deduction. It’s possible they heard of the nearby dumpster fire overnight.

I’ve started transferring files to it, but I made a mistake at first by attempting to transfer everything from my old external hard disk to the new one, all 11 TB or so of it, with the idea that once it was duplicated I could decide what I wanted to keep on which drive. After 2 days, this transfer (done using a program called TeraCopy which is set to verify each move/copy after performing the action), was only done about 20%. I gave up and cancelled it all and decided to decide (like having a meeting to plan for another meeting) on how I wanted to split it before I started moving things instead. And thus I did so, passing a decree that I’d put my scans and backup/preservation stuff on this new drive, and so I spent the rest of the week moving those things over.

I went down to Scotiabank on Wednesday to try to get an estimate on how much of a budget I have to work with for buying a house. Basically a mortgage preapproval. One credit check and some technical issues later, this came to about a $280k mortgage on a 25 year loan, with only slight deviances based on changing the length of payment or things like that. This is based largely on two things, the current Bank of Canada interest policy rate, which is at 5%, and the yearly salary for my job, which is around $75-78k. That’s also about how much I have in my bank accounts, so with a downpayment of $70k thrown on top of that, that would be about a house value of slightly over $350k.

I also learnt about something called the First Home Savings Account, where Canadians can open an FHSA with a bank and put in $8,000 per year, which gives you an income tax contribution deduction and associated savings from that until you withdraw from that fund to buy your first house. Even though I plan to get a house the middle of this upcoming year, this is still apparently something I can do and which will count toward my next income tax filing in 2025 for fiscal year 2024 now, and if I don’t end up buying a house then 12 months from the day I open the account, I can contribute another $8,000 to it and so on. It was apparently a program that the Canadian government started last year.

The public Scotiabank mortgage lending rate was somewhere around 7.3% for a 3 year closed rate mortgage on a 25-year amortization, whereby the interest rate is locked in for that entire time period, which is a lot higher than the central rate and even the other major banks, but he said that Scotiabank had a Mortgage Plus loyalty thing or something that dropped it to 5.5%, but the program wouldn’t actually allow him to put it in for the calculations, instead insisting on the larger 7.3% rate, nor would it let him up 25 years to 30). I later learnt that this was because I was trying to go over 20% of my downpayment, which they didn’t really allow for, and that that number basically wouldn’t change all that much (it mostly affects the amount I’d pay back per month). From what I could see it would only influence it a couple thousand dollars upwards, as he did drop it from 7.3 to 7.0 (by changing it from a 3 year closed rate plan to a 5 year closed rate plan) and the antiquated mortgage calculator program coughed up about $6,000 more or so in preapproval.

I came away a bit dissatisfied with the process though, especially since the Scotiabank mortgage specialist seemed to not be entirely certain why the program he was using was spitting out some of the numbers it did. Due to that, I walked into my local RBC branch in the mall instead, and asked if there was someone there I could speak to. Amazingly, they said that they had an opening in about 30 minutes, so I went off for lunch and came back to speak to an advisor there as well.

I was expecting to have to give all my details and do another credit check again, but this guy was far more to the point. He took a look at my paycheque, and immediately quoted me the exact same amount as the other guy did, a 280k mortgage. Not only did RBC get me in to see an advisor immediately, instead of having me wait a week like Scotiabank, he didn’t even have to fire up his computer, never mind run a credit check! He had been doing this for 15 years, he said, and could basically eyeball it at this point. He said what I had surmised by then, that the only things that affected it were basically one’s salary and the interest rate, and that a couple years ago when the interest rate was around 2%, that would have made the mortgage 5 times my salary instead of 4 times, so I would have been able to get a $350k mortgage. But it was a medium-level interest rate right now, with a decent chance to be a bit lower come the middle of next year when I wanted to get my house, so 4 times was what I should be aiming for instead.

He was able to answer a bunch of my questions without hesitation. and also pointed out some other things, like how my ability to do a $70k downpayment on top of the $280k mortgage was perfect, as a 20% downpayment meant that my mortgage wouldn’t be a high ratio one and wouldn’t require insurance or something like that, and that the mortgage repayment would come to about $1,800 a month, on top of about $300 property tax, $150 house insurance, maybe $250 utilities or so, and getting a more expensive house would mean the monthly repayment and the property tax would be higher anyway, which would probably be untenable on my current salary. That made a lot of sense.

We also worked out a timeline, like he said if my current lease was ending in September or so, and I wanted a house to move in to by then, then I should tack on 45 days for the owner to move out after the house sale was closed, and that mortgage pre-approvals at RBC were good for 4 months (I believe it’s only 2 months at Scotiabank), so I should look to officially start the formal preapproval process around March. Neat. And we talked about the BoC’s interest rates a little. He also said he could recommend realtors to work with if I wanted some at that time. I felt very comfortable with him, and have his business card now, so I will probably look to work with RBC instead of Scotiabank for the mortgage when the time comes. Especially after putting together this chart in the morning before I went to talk to either advisor:

0

Scotiabank‘s “mortgage plus” rates or whatever are better, like 5.5% for the 3 year fixed, but they don’t seem to be public, and I’m not sure I trust its continued existence. It’s really interesting though. Because specifically of how much I have at this point in time, and because I didn’t quit my job, and because I didn’t go to Japan for the 2nd study abroad program, I have exactly the amount needed to safely (i.e. I still have a little buffer leftover afterwards for renovations and other emergency expenses) put down the minimum 20% downpayment for the maximum mortgage that my job’s salary allows me to get, thus maximizing it without running into high ratio mortgages. So a $350k house it will be, I guess!

He also, in a rather timely manner, warned me not to get a vehicle. He said the last client he spoke with had just gotten a car, with a $600 monthly payment tacked on to his liabilities from it, and that $600/month cost that client $120k off his mortgage limit. Yikes. Get the house first, then the car, he said! Duly noted!

I went for a haircut after that, because why not get all the weird painful adultish things out of the way while I was at the mall? So that’s done now, and for under $100 at that since I went to the cheaper non-salon barber shop to get it done. My hair feels light now and no longer contributes to occasional headaches and tinnitus. It’s nice. I also no longer feel like I need to shampoo my hair daily or feel gross. I don’t think I’ve had a haircut since April. My blog confirms this. Good blog.

Because we’re only 3 days into the year and I have all my receipts within easy reach still, I also decided to start an optional new year’s resolution to track my budget expenditures in a spreadsheet, something I’ve never needed to do and don’t think I really *need* to do still, it’s just that it’s actually useful from a personal archive standpoint since I’ve wished that I could look back on things in the past few years instead of just having an armful of unsorted receipts. I have this in a Google Sheet at the moment.

My new Alberta ID card also arrived on Wednesday, so that’s nice. Glad that online renewal worked, since I wasn’t 100% sure if it would. Even if I plan to get that other ID, the driver’s licence, soon. Lots of other minor “new” things started this week due to the start of the new year, things like new organizer files for my receipts and bills, new archival folders to store my screenshots, and so on.

Games

After a lot of research, I picked up a couple more solo games to wrap up the Steam Winter sale this week — dotAGE, Dead Grid, Conquest of Elysium 5, and ZERO Sievert. I’ve played all of them a little. They’re all roguelites or roguelikes, ish, which is what interests me at the moment I suppose. Conquest of Elysium reminds me of Age of Wonders, but far more hm.. exotic, which makes me very happy, as that was a game I used to love and play quite a bit of. I also watched a lot of gameplay videos from various streamers this week, since that’s something I can do without much mental effort and can turn up the volume for to drown out any idiots upstairs. ZERO Sievert is a nice, top-down extraction shooter game that has killed me many times, and sorry Jah, but I have no idea what a sievert is, though if I find one I’ll let you know, right before refunding the game for having a misleading title.

Other games I played include Hades, where I’m stuck on the 2nd stage of the last boss and am sort of bored with trying to roll the perfect weapon talents to be able to beat him right now, Terminus: Zombie Survivors, where I got the furthest I’ve ever got but still died near the end, Battle Brothers, which I continue to watch plenty of gameplay videos for, and The Guild II, which I wanted to try but was pretty finicky to even get to run on Windows 11 (its expansion pack wouldn’t run through Steam at all due to some Direct X 8.1 error but would run directly from the installation folder for some reason), and then the game felt too primitive and old after I finally did get it running. I also played some Starbound, a game I’ve been having a mild craving for for a couple of weeks but had been ignoring due to the Steam sale.

In co-op play with Satinel, we finished the 5th and 6th planet, Alderaan and Tatooine, in SWTOR this week. There was a rakghoul plague game-wide event going on while we were in Alderaan this week so we got infected and had to take vaccines and such, so that was interesting. I let the infection run its course and exploded and infected Satinel at one point. That’ll teach her to spend too much time together with me. Or something. Due to a really long double xp event, we’re already level 48 and the zone that we just completed was only a level 29 one. Everything is a complete faceroll, so we’re only doing the personal class stories and the main planet story and not all the silly side quests or heroic quests. The story quests are for the most part quite fun and interesting though. It looks like we have maybe 7 planets left before completing the main class storyline.

Plushie of the Week #122 – Ditto the Charmander

This thing is from Pokemon, and is a fire creature, and that’s about all I know about it. I’ve only ever played a little bit of Pokemon. Apparently Jon got this plushie, which he named Ditto the Charmander, from Singapore in January 2019, but that’s all the backstory I know about him as well.

For some reason the frontal picture that I have is blurry, but that’s okay, since there’s a semi-frontal picture when he’s lying on the side too. There’s no tags for this entry, you can see the tag in the picture but it’s completely washed out.

Front:

Back:

Side:

Another side:

Underside:

Song of the Week #99

Title: Save Tonight
Artist: Eagle-Eye Cherry
Album: Desireless (1997)

I don’t like this song. Why is this here, then? It’s because it occupies an interesting footnote in my personal music history — I used to really like this song, when it first came out, to the point that it became my #1 favourite English song for a couple of weeks. And thus this is the last #1 favourite English song that I had (that I remember) and that I hadn’t featured yet, and I wanted to get them all done before the 100th edition of this blog segment. I’ve previously talked about the others in My Diary #110 and have gone back and edited that snippet with links to the newer former #1 songs as well.

It was a good couple of weeks for this song, but like an evening fling on a distant vacation, or a fairytale infatuation that couldn’t last, I eventually found it to be overplayed and something inside me snapped. I started to dislike it, and I believe that I eventually even booted it out of my top 100 altogether. I don’t hate it now though, but I don’t really have any fond feelings for the song either, so it’s not even significant in that regard anymore. That being said, it had to be mentioned because it’s part of my musical history, and the video is familiar (and quite neat) upon a rewatch even though I haven’t seen it in decades, so here it is.

Writing Prompt of the Week #42

This week’s writing prompt reads:

“Write about where you went in and around your home or neighbourhood to be alone. Why did you choose that spot, and what did you do there?”

I don’t think I had any such spot in the context of the neighbourhood outside my home (unless I count Kallang McDonalds or Sun Plaza Park, but neither one was actually in my neighbourhood), nor did I often seek out time to be alone for that matter — I liked being around my friends. While at home, back in Singapore at least, we often had what we called a “Spare Room” which was kind of like a study, and I did often hang out in there due to a lack of anything else to do, since this was a time before the Internet and computers were widespread and ubiquitous. Starting from when I was maybe 8 or 9 onwards, I did get an hour a day of computer time, to play games, and eventually I negotiated another hour to do “computer stuff” too, which was usually tinkering around with Windows or DOS or some utilities on CDs that we had. I’ve talked about this bit before, mostly here.

Outside of computer stuff though, there were also usually games and books in there, including most of my childhood games from here and these books and these other books that I’ve talked about before. Also a lot of my parents’ books though. And that’s where things like my L5R cards ended up being stored too, so I spent lots of time there making decks and plotting strategies as well.

The computer was moved out of the Spare Room in Tampines 294, and sat outside in a corner of the main living room there. A similar thing happened in Edmonton 4012, our first family house here in Edmonton, where the main computer was outside in the hall, the secondary computer was downstairs in the basement, and at that point our Spare Room had virtually nothing in it anymore because the books and games and such that we still had also resided in the basement instead. Still though, since none of us kids in the family ever kept bookshelves and desks and similar things in our bedroom, most of our (or at least my) fond childhood memories of hanging out and doing/playing/reading things in the house took place in this Spare Room, and I hope that I will have a room like this in my future house as well that I can build up to be a nice leisure room.

Memory Snippet of the Week #106

Since I was young, I’ve been keeping a collection of bread clips. I’m not quite sure why, I think Mom suggested I start collecting them at some point and encouraged it by giving me the bread clips off of the bags of bread that we used to buy (and that contributed to me hating bread for many years since we consumed so much of it growing up). These days, I still collect them, not out of any nostalgia but because I already have such a large collection already so why not continue, and since they not only come on bags of bread (which I only very infrequently buy) but also things like bags of potatoes and carrots (which I often buy). So for this week, I took a look at the collection that I have, highlighting some interesting ones and separating and counting them by colour before lumping them all back into the box whence they came.

This is the entire pile of bread clips that I have:

And here’s a shot of some of the different types and colours that I pulled out from there:

Sadly virtually all of them only print the month and day on the clip — there was only one clip out of the entire box that I saw that had a year printed on it, the blue one in the middle that is marked 09 Mar 97. Though I didn’t specifically look at every single clip. The collection has probably been going on since further back than 1997 though, probably closer to 1995. The reason I say this is the container that I store these in:

This is a plastic Casper the Friendly Ghost cup from a KFC Singapore giveaway circa 1995, featuring “Casper and the Ghostly Trio” and copyrighted as 1995 UCS and Amblin. TM Harvey. We used to have three of these cups, though I’m not sure where the others are right now — I know we had used one cup to store our carrom board pieces and another one used to store odds and ends like pins and stuff, but I haven’t seen either of those cups in a long time. This one has always stored these bread clips though, so it’s reasonable to assume that the collection probably started at least around back in 1995 when the cups were lauched, back when we were buying lots of the two main bread brands in Singapore, Sunshine bread and Gardenia bread.

As mentioned, I also counted them by colour since I had already poured them all out already. All in all, I currently have: 50 white, 49 blue, 48 red, 41 tan, 34 yellow, 33 orange, 27 green, 19 cardboard, and 2 pink tags, for a grand total of 303 tags. I’m surprised some of those numbers are so randomly close to each other, with the top few neck to neck with each other, even though I’ve never actually tallied them up until now.

Dreams
Jan 01 2024
  • I was walking through a school hallway with Mrs Douziech and about a half dozen other students. Someone had a question about whether computer game stories were real stories for purpose of English analysis classes, the answer from Mrs Douziech was a resounding yes. As we walked along, she also used keys to unlock some elevators so that they could be used, even though we didn’t use them ourselves as our target was a classroom on the same level that we were on.
  • In the classroom, which turned out to be a lecture room with three or four columns of long tables, Angela had taken my usual seat at the front row of one of the near columns, so I went to cycle to another empty one at one of the further columns, but people asked that I not take that seat as that was potentially reserved for someone who had not actually been to class for a long time but there was an inkling that he might turn up today. This might have been John or Patrick from Vernon Barford. I took a couple seats behind that next to a female friend that I recognized instead.
  • We worked on some art project together, this involved a sushi flavour colouring assignment and ended up with me having a plate of extra coloured sushi that I offered to others for them to complete their assignment as several people seemed to be short some colours. Extra flavours on my plate included orange sushi, chilli sushi, blood sushi, and ninja sushi. The first two were orange-coloured and Eisen nearly mixed them up when taking them, which would have proved to be disastrous as he didn’t like spice in his food. I pointed out the difference and bade him taste it with his tongue before he took it and he made a face at the chilli taste. The blood sushi was red, and the ninja sushi was striped white and grey.
  • There was also a scene in the school library revolving around a story about a boy who won free internet (in the form of a pile of AOL free internet CDs) for doing some research on a topic and submitting it as part of a contest. This involved books in two Dewey Decimal System catalogue numbers, one was 793.93 and the other was one that I struggled to remember even in my dream, but was somewhere in the 720-740 range. Both were puzzle/game-related catalogue numbers that I used to look up all the time in Singapore and Edmonton public libraries. I was surprised that AOL internet CDs still existed in the mid 2010s.
  • Snippet: I was in my bed at a family home at one point and Mom yelled at me to wake me up. I sat up with a blanket over my head and tried to make an excuse for something or other that was apparently 6 months overdue and that she was mad at me for. Later on, I was in a shower in a bathtub, and tried to write down some of my earlier dreams on the side of the bathtub using either a wet finger or a wet stick, but that didn’t work out very well.
Jan 03 2024
  • Snippet: All I remember was a turn-based hexagonal grid game where there was a black mist that spread across the land or something, and to keep the mist going there was a minigame that had to be played that involved me being able to emit said mist while inside the mist itself, and constantly moving to cover as many hexagons as possible in a radius around me to keep things shrouded in mist.
Jan 04 2024
  • I was watching a kid streaming a game on Twitch, he was some content creator that focused on finding and highlighting interesting things in the town as “secrets” and making simple maps of the place. The stream was not live, though at one point he had to yell off-screen to chat with his mom about something while on camera. I wasn’t into his showboating style, but I learnt a couple things about the town in the game that I was also playing in, so that was neat.
  • He found some vendor in town that he highlighted, then saw a drain grate next to it. He positioned the top-down character camera over it and zoomed in and saw a second model of the shopkeeper underground and floating in mid air in a stuck pose, this was apparently a workaround for some bug that players weren’t supposed to see and that was needed to make the above-ground version of the shopkeeper work.
  • Later on, Dad was on a bus and yelling out in English and Hokkien about how people shouldn’t think about homeless people and their families as smelly, just as a couple cops were breaking off a temporary shelter made by a homeless woman who had formed a semicircle with some low fences surrounding her tent in the middle of a pavement near a bus stop, and the cops themselves were calling the woman smelly.
  • There was a male and a female cop, and Dad started arguing with the female cop and saying that she should be more respectful and “taste the person’s family” first or something before making such a statement, which was supposed to be a version of the “walking a mile in their shoes” saying. The female cop countered with some argument about a crime a homeless person had committed that made the news the previous week or two before Dad came to town. I realized the cop was speaking English and Hokkien as well, but it was likely that everyone else on the bus only spoke English and could not understand half the conversation.
  • Even later on, there was some plot about living in a mansion with others and having to answer a work order to mow a different part of the large mansion lawn every week or so, which I strongly disliked but which kept me from having to take a turn doing other disliked tasks too. This part of the dream was part of a more convoluted game system but I don’t remember details.
Jan 05 2024
  • In one of my dreams, there was an assembly in a school hall, and to get there from our classroom involved running up three flights of stairs or so. There were Dunman friends there, and the assembly involved us lining up in lines by class number, and I was worried that I and a few other friends would be late if we didn’t hurry up. There was also an awards ceremony of some kind going to take place that I was involved in.
  • There were some things I had to do on the way up though, like we had a skill with certain levels that could be used to pacify or defeat some boss mobs, and to level that skill up I had to hit some levers or buttons on the way up to the assembly hall.
  • In the assembly itself, once we all reached there safely past the disciplinary teacher standing guard at the entrance to the hall, a female teacher played a music video of her singing a Malay song while dancing around outdoors, and after a bit she chimed in to sing the chorus live, together and in sync with her on-screen version.
  • In a much later dream, I was pregnant with six female babies, three pairs of twins, and they all had names and due dates already but were spread out over a 6 or 7 month period, one per month. They were all also premature and in danger of dying, so to attract the best nurses in the hospital, I put down a $1,000 reward for each one kept alive, as I didn’t want to have to choose between them to decide who had to live and who didn’t. It looked like a quest list and each baby got accepted by a different nurse to take care of.
  • Even though they were my babies, I was not actually tethered to a bed, and when Dad and someone else came to visit at some point I was in an elevator with them and hit every button on the way up or down, leaving the elevator on alternate floors, running down the stairs to hit a button in the stairwell, and then entering the elevator again on the floor below the one I had left. Then leaving again the floor after that, running down the stairs again, and so on.
Jan 06 2024
  • Snippet: I dreamt I was playing a top-down shooter game with tasks to do on each map, but if I died then everything would reset itself. I could save my progress by running to a corner of the map and escaping and then returning though.
  • Editor: This was almost exactly the gameplay of ZERO Sievert, which I had been playing before bedtime this day.

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