My Diary #138

Dear Tigey,

Finally we will nearly be out of this hellhole! This comfortable and long-stayed hellhole, but I am eagerly looking forward to moving on now.

Entry #138 (Mar 31 2024)

Life

I did a bit of scouting around this week, reaching out to four different moving companies via their online forms with my needed date and from/to address. Only two of them called me back, and one’s quote was vastly higher than the other, so it looks like I know the company I’m going to use.

It seems that the company I’m going to use is Last Stop Moving (local), and they gave me a quote for $135/h, for a minimum of 2 hours plus one hour travel + truck/tools and two persons worth of labour. so hopefully it will come in around $450 after GST if I’m lucky, even though their “estimate” actually quotes 3.5 hours for about $650 or so. I was upfront about the 2 hours from the start though and the guy I spoke to said they would mark down and I would sign off on the start time before they start, and then the same thing at the end to clock out. They also said they’d take a picture of the bedframe that I need disposed of and send that to the office, which would send people by to pick it up and store it in a local stockpile that they had in their company site to cart off the next time they did a mass disposal. It would cost $20-$110 to dispose depending on how large the bedframe is (it’s twin size, so probably half of that).

The only other company to reply to me within 72 hours (when most of them offered an online form and said they would often reply within minutes) quoted me $179 an hour, minimum of 3 hours, plus a $50 fuel surcharge for travel and a $50 compulsory insurance thing in case they scuff the furniture or floor and had to pay it out. And an estimate of $85 to get rid of the bedframe.

The issue with the moving company that I did select was that they could only come in at 9 am or 1 pm, and I wouldn’t have the new keys until 11 am. So 1 pm it was, which was the same time that my cleaning service was going to come in, so I asked the cleaners if they could come in at 3 pm or during the weekend instead, but they said 3 pm was too late and the weekend incurred an extra charge. After some negotiation, I asked them to only do the kitchen and bathroom, and they said they’d send two people by at 9 am instead and would be done before 1 pm. That was perfect for me so I accepted that quote at $42/h per person plus GST. They don’t seem to have a website, just this card that the Midwest office gave a scan of to me:

I’m guessing the entire move and clean will cost about $750, which will come in under the $1000 I had budgeted for it, but which will also involve me doing a bit of cleaning and a bit of moving on the side. Hopefully that’s accurate! And after hearing the asshole upstairs bang the floor at 2am on two different nights this week, I’m so looking forward to getting out of here. Just one more week to go until I hopefully don’t have to play my white noise and Twitch channels at full blast 18 hours a day! This was my last Friday, last Saturday, and last Sunday here!

The housing management came by with a couple of potential tenants after I go so that they could look at the suite. They were a French-Canadian University student and his mom, and I felt sorry for them and their impending nightmare (or so I think). I’m not going to warn them though, that’s not fair to prime them and make them more sensitive to the noise.

I’m still in the planning stages of my late April trip, and contacting people to see if I can meet up with them, but currently I plan to go something like Japan -> China (if I can get a visa in time) -> Hong Kong (apparently I don’t need a visa for this) -> Taiwan -> Malaysia -> Singapore -> home via probably Japan. And it will be somewhere between 2 to 3 months long. I’m also thinking of testing out my DJI Pocket 2 video camera to see if I can stream footage from that directly to Twitch while travelling. Not all the time, but maybe a couple hours here and there at a time. Apparently it would normally take about 1.5 GB of mobile/wireless data per hour or so on 720p, but there’s a lot of other things to consider even past things like bandwidth and video stability and video/sound quality.

In preparation for my trip, I bought a new tote bag, with a shoulder strap, this week. It was on sale and 40% off but still cost $60. My last one partially broke while in Kyoto though and I can’t really use that anymore. I also bought five more plastic tote boxes from Home Depot, with a capacity of slightly over 100 litres each, to pack things into. This got delivered the very next day, bright and early just before 8:30 am — I wasn’t even out of bed yet and missed a couple calls from the DoorDash person they hired to move the huge containers. We connected in the end though. Tote bag and tote box. What similar terms.

One small advantage of this move to the nearby apartment is that it’s a trial move of sorts — if I find out that I don’t have enough boxes to pack all my things in, I have a couple of extra days to bring over the leftover little things and the journey between the two apartments will be a couple minutes, mostly indoors, at most. This will help a ton toward me knowing exactly what I need for my move to a proper house, hopefully later this year or whenever it might happen. Or even another apartment if that’s the path I go down in the end.

Planning for both a trip and a move at the same time is a bit exhausting though. I still need to call utilities and insurance next week, as well as hopefully keep watching plane ticket prices and finally buy my most expensive ticket, the initial one out from Edmonton (or Calgary) to Tokyo, so that everything else after that can start falling into place like dominoes.

I forgot to link these pictures last week, a craft sale that I saw and passed by in Southgate Mall on Mar 17:

Apparently the photo booth with the bunny in the middle was a separate event from the booths on the outside, called Posh Market YEG, though, since when I went back this week the booths were gone but the Easter bunny was still there:

And I found the signage for that event, Delightfully Hoppy, afterwards:

Oh yeah, it’s Easter! I checked and I actually had this Friday and next Monday off, so that’s a nice 4 day weekend that I hadn’t been totally cognizant of.

Funnily, while I was typing all this, Southgate actually sent me an announcement email for that Easter Bunny photo event above:

Why would you wait until March 28 to send a notification about an event running from March 16 to 30 though?

Anyway, this was the weather last week, on March 21:

And now this week, on March 27:

Spring is here now for good right? What nice weather. Nope, this happened on March 28:

Make up your mind! Winter is basically on its end legs though. I liked this picture that I took at 7:46 pm on the 26th, and I call it Winter’s Sunset:

Also I took a picture of the apartment complex’s Christmas tree from the front this week. It has now started coming on again nightly, but I won’t be able to directly see it from my new place. And that’s fine.

I also unsubscribed from my Backblaze forever version history backup earlier this month, opting to fall back onto their “free” one year retention instead. The extreme drawback of their implementation of the forever version history storage is that you don’t actually have an option to go in and delete things from the cache, and you pay $.006 USD/GB/Month for all the data in that state of being from more than 1 year ago. At some point, this had spiked dramatically, and earlier this month my ledger told me that it was costing me $28.72 USD a month, with probably a lot of dupes from things moving across drives, or with slight metadata changes, or other stuff I don’t care about in there. So I scaled back down to 1 year version history and let go of the rest.

I finally found a bit of time and brainpower this week to work on the other parts of my site and my archive a little bit, so I uploaded a few more ads to my collection on the Internet Archive. I also learnt a word — ephemera (local) — and liked it a lot, so I changed my “A Potpourri of Papers” page to “Eclectic Ephemera” instead as it’s a better reflection of what it is, or what I want it to be anyway.

And on Thursday this week, I finally finished the last clove of garlic from the “little tray of garlic” that I bought from the Chinese supermarket about six weeks ago. That was a lot of garlic. Yummy. Now I know that one of those trays lasts me about six weeks when I’m putting garlic into almost every meal that it could reasonably go into.

Games

It looks like the Minecraft public server wipe will be coming sooner rather than later, so no one on the server that I have gotten to know has really been playing much in the past week or so. The modpack is already updated on Curseforge and wherever else it’s being hosted, we’re just apparently waiting on the server’s staff to update it.

Anyway, I went around to take some pictures of my little colony, even though many of the buildings are still works in progress. Here’s some of the better pictures:

Here’s the main street of my town, with the town hall on the right, and a fountain and then my custom-built house on the left. Colony buildings (but not my custom home) have a tier system going from tier 1 to tier 5, and the builder will replace existing blocks and build them to tier them up as you provide materials to them. My town hall is only tier 1 since it’s quite a chore to upgrade and the server was going to be wiped soon anyway, so it’s just made out of oak instead of stone and cherry planks or whatever it’s supposed to be in the end.

The front of my custom-built house:

The inside:

And the backyard:

There’s actually more altars and stuff, required for a bunch of different mods, installed in the empty space on the left side now.

My current colony is located on an island, and I put up a fence around the entier thing, so I let all my animals wander wild. I also have a pet ghost dragon, which sits on a lawn in front of my house, sizing up the local wildlife as they wander by.

The house on the left here and the hospital in the background are tier 5, the house on the right is tier 1:

This builder’s hut is tier 5 too:

And finally a couple aerial views of the colony:

Outside of Minecraft, I played a bit of Backpack Battles, and then a bit of Stardew Valley because the game had a big update and I really want to make myself like the game. I even installed some mods this time. Still can’t really get myself addicted to it though. I also went back to play a Hades run, and started playing Nioh 2 while waiting for the Minecraft server to get updated, hopefully before I lose interest in it or get swept up by moving and trip planning things.

Plushie of the Week #134

This week, we shall take a look at a few Winnie the Pooh bears that we have. Not this Winnie, but the actual bear from the cartoon show. We have a few of these, but they’re all in unsealed bags and tucked away in boxes somewhere. We’re not sure what their origins are, although Dad thinks that Auntie Doris sent us some of them from a McDonalds promotion in Singapore, particularly these ones from a photo that I have from 1999:

They’re seated there in a carpeted cubby hole along with one of the Santa Claus plushies in what I believe was our Edmonton 1532 home, a house that we only spent one month in. So that’s one of the very few pictures we have from that house.

I don’t actually have any more updated pictures of those Winnies though, so I’m not even sure if we have them at the family home any more. We probably do, somewhere, since they obviously came along with us to Canada. Instead, the Winnie the Pooh pictures that I took a couple visits ago to the family house are of these two, one a red-shirted one and one a pink-shirted one. The red-shirted one has five pictures instead of four so I’ll show him first.

Front:

Back (and a little tag):

Front (closeup):

Big tag front:

Big tag back:

Pink one front:

Back:

Tag front:

Tag back:

They don’t seem to be from McDonalds, at least they don’t have McD branding on them, but I’m completely lost as to where these are from and why they’re still in their original bags.

Song of the Week #111

Title: That’s What Friends Are For
Artist: Stevie Wonder, Dionne Warwick, Elton John, Gladys Knight
Album: Friends (1985)

Although I don’t have a personal theme song or anything like that, and I don’t consider it one of my absolute favourite songs, this song, which I do like very much, has been one of my anthems through my life. It’s a song that I try to thematically live by, It reminds me of a string of good friends that I have had the good fortune to meet and have, all the way back from my Dunman High friends in Secondary 1 and 2, to my newer LotRO and Discord friends like Mell and Satinel.

One of the lines that I try to live by is that friendship is the most important currency that one can have. And while I’m sure that they won’t appreciate me treating them as currency, what I mean by this is that friendship is a very valuable thing that must be earned and accrued over time with various people for one to have a rich and full life, and yet is a give and take thing that cannot itself just be hoarded, but must be spent in smart ways as well in order to cultivate the “economy” that is a rich friendship web. Keeping in touch with friends, enjoying the things they like and sharing those with other friends when appropriate, both doing things for them and (importantly) accepting help from them in return when needed, paying attention to them and wanting to spend time with them — there are many ways and paths toward cultivating good friendships but not all of them always work out with every single potential friend, and that’s fine.

The ones that work out are great though, and I am thankful to have found so many nice people that have touched my heart and guided me through my life. I also really like the video for demonstrating this — even though it’s just four people standing there and singing the song, they seem to be having a lot of genuine fun on the stage, and I love the earnestness that they put into their singing. I’m a big fan of Dionne Warwick, this being the second song of hers that I’ve given a nod to on this weekly blog, and I’ve watched the linked video several times in the past few years. The song itself is linked to a charity fundraiser for combating AIDS, but I don’t have any connections to or memories of that aspect of it since I was only 1 year old at that time.

Writing Prompt of the Week #54

This week’s writing prompt reads:

“When I was young, my biggest fear was…”

This was probably a mix of drowning in the middle of an ocean and being stuck in a very cramped space, Those are probably very common fears huh. They weren’t particularly deep ones, and I don’t have any particular traumatic experiences to point at that I can say triggered them or anything. I don’t think I had any other particularly big fear though, I very much lived in the moment and that was enough. But I do remember worrying about things like this while I was lying in the top bunk of the double-decker bed that I shared with Jon in our air-conditioned bedroom at night.

I do remember that Sandra, in the neighbouring GEP class, was deathly afraid of dogs, and there was a story I was told that the reason that was the case was because she was chased by some dogs once and had to hide in a grave (Dug out grave? Graveyard? How old was she when this happened? Was this true? I’m not sure of the details) to escape from them.

Memory Snippet of the Week #118

While looking through plushie pictures this week, I found this thing, which made me decide on what to write about for memory snippet this week.

Back around 2012-2014, I spent some time playing Guild Wars 2, with a lot of time poured into the game’s Realm vs Realm (RvR) system in particular, which was a system where each game server community would be matched up against two other servers every week and fight for control over castles and other objectives in four PvP zone maps for points that stacked up the longer you held the objectives. Each round of fighting would last a week, and because it reset every Friday night, all the servers had organized groups that would hit the field together every Friday night to try to crush the opposing servers and start off with as strong a score as possible. There would then be smaller groups and events throughout the week as well to try to earn more points, depending on who was online at any given time, but often not to the scale of the Friday night fights unless a server was really close to another server in points and wanted to try to push to overtake them or something.

I was on the Tarnished Coast server, which due to a strong North American population as well as a couple of strong Oceanic and South East Asian guilds at the time that were able to provide off-hours coverage, was able to fight in the top tier of 3 servers, and square off most often against the Blackgate and Jade Quarry servers to fight for the #1 spot each week.

Anyway, I ran largely by myself at first, and although I played a mesmer (named Melydia) and was terrible at fighting, I built myself for movement and speed and instead found a niche playing the role of a scout and supply runner for the server’s armies, since I was really good at running away from other people with my tail between my legs, while also typing in chat and communicating enemy army movements at the same time. Mesmers also had a really nice tool called portals, which could let friendlies teleport from one place to another, as well as limited invisiblity, which sometimes let them hide in enemy castles if they were already inside before the castle was taken. Those two combined together sometimes allowed castles to be “ninjaed” and taken back by a smaller group if the enemy wasn’t vigilant, and on several occasions I would hide for over an hour inside an occupied keep until everyone else had left before “inviting” some allies in to take it back.

Anyway, all that was fun, and I made a name for myself with a combination of both the scouting and the portalling. Around that time, the community server forums that the Tarnished Coast guilds used imploded due to some drama or other, and someone named Esthetics started another one on a site called For The Toast — where Toast was a colloquial term we used for players from Tarnished Coast.

A thread from this website is visible on my computer monitor in the picture at the top of this memory snippet — that was what triggered the memory and the catalyst for me doing this somewhat lengthy writeup this week.

I volunteered for a moderator role on this site, and got it, and found it eventually bundled with a weird but interesting gatekeeper role. We needed as many people as possible from our server to be able to see the section of our forums restricted to server members only, so that we could organize our armies and battles to the best of our capabilities, but we also had to keep out “spies” from other servers so that they could not see our plans. Yet, the PvE side of the game involved maps where you could meet and play with people from any server, so to actuallty verify someone as part of Tarnished Coast, one of us had to meet the applying player in part of the RvR zone that was restricted to just our server’s players, as “proof” that they were on the server. I was far more active than any of the other moderators, so for about a six month period I was basically the only person doing this, and was largely on call and on watch across all time zones to meet and approve new players, by friending them and then watching for them to be online once they filled in a short application with their player name on the forum.

We also gave guild leaders the ability to approve their own guild members as well, which helped speed things up, but I actually did like this gatekeeper role and I think I was fairly good and responsive through my tenure there. It also helped that I was not actually in any of the major guilds, so I had no obligation to join them for their guild raids and events, nor did I get involved in much guild drama. I would wait until 1 or 2 am sometimes to meet some people before going to bed, or arrange with the Asian guilds to wake up at 5am in order to meet and verify someone from there that needed access.

There was definitely drama on the moderation side of the forum as well, and on the battlefield sometimes as pride and egos swelled now and then, but by and large I think I kept a steady hand on the ship, though I was mostly also moderating by myself for a good chunk of my moderator tenure or so since the other mods and admin staff were not as active or working on other projects. I didn’t mind that too much though since I work more efficiently that way — I liked Esthetics as he largely left me alone but did admin stuff as needed, and I ended up building and maintaining a big spreadsheet and all for matching up people’s account names and their ingame characters which I passed on to the next mod team as I was leaving. Nearer the end of my time there, a couple new mods were hired that really helped too.

There was one notable moderation point in particular that I remember, when a moderately popular poster named Jayne was constantly trying to stir up drama on the forum, and using intuition and forum account login audit logs, I was able to prove that several of her supporters were alt accounts, and the drama queen got banished after a rather public unveiling and roasting.

Anyway, I tried my best to build relationships and friendships with people “across the aisle”, on both sides of a debate, and I had the ear of (and vice versa, as I was always open for a good chat) a good number of the people who would have been labelled as “troublemakers” on the forum if we had all been audited. This held true even though I eventually broke my neutrality and joined a RvR-focused guild named Standing United (abbreviated as [STUN]), led by a good ingame friend named Traxien that I respected a lot, even though by that time I did not play the game that much and focused mostly on helping out with forum administration and keeping the community together.

By the way, I thought of the guild name, when we were trying to think one up, while seated on the toilet, but I hope he never reads that. I liked it at first because of its abbreviation [SUN], which I suggested as our guild tag, but they preferred adding a T to it as well because that was also a useful ingame PvP mechanic and because GW2 allowed for guild tags that were up to four letters long.

When I finally left, my farewell thread was probably in a restricted section of the forum that I no longer have access to, but the first page of one of the other threads on it that Esthetics made can still be seen on archive.org here.

One of my greatest memories from my time was a private message that someone named Phantom sent me a couple of months before he left. He was someone I had jousted with on the forum many times as a moderator too, and his words as he left were very heartening to read:

I’ve always had the utmost respect for you. I may not have gotten to spend a ton of time with you in game, but I’m very aware of the tremendous amount of work you do. You’re a blessing to TC, and I wish more people would emulate you.

This ranked up there with the words that were said to me when I left KWL in LotRO as probably the top two most unexpected but well-remembered compliments that people I knew from a video game (but weren’t otherwise super close to) have ever given me. Those are the types of compliments I think back on to when I’m having a bad day or feel down about myself, so I very much appreciated them. People  who are leaving never have any qualms about saying what is on their mind if they never plan to return, as they no longer have the need to play nice, so it was nice to see that they actually did hold me in such high regard.

I remember that someone else, possibly in my farewell thread in the protected forum, and also possibly Phantom (or it might have been someone else, but I remember it as the same person somehow — it was definitely someone I often butted heads with though), also said that they had mixed doubts about when I first volunteered for the role because it was a very chaotic time and Esthetics had given me the role literally because I happened to be the first person who posted in the volunteer thread at the time, but that I had earned their respect over time for being fair-headed and reasonable, so that was very nice to hear too.

Another of my more memorable memories was this “training session” video that I am posting below, which I idled in the game overnight to record while actually being sound asleep myself (the video doesn’t mean much as I wasn’t following the group, and I eventually end up facing a wall and idling there until I got logged out for inactivity). Anyway, the leader, Maulbrak, of one of the top fighting guilds on the server, Kwisatz Haderach [KH], was holding this training session to teach newer players and commanders about the game. Somewhere around 2:19:50, one of their other top players, an extremely well-respected player named Billy, mentioned how much she loved me, and I heard it the next day while reviewing the video log. It’s also a nice historical log in general on what Mumble “commander comms” (what a commander says while leading players) sound like, as he leads other players and takes keeps and stuff around the teaching session.

Dreams

Really not many retained dreams at all this week, between sleeping problems and the excitement of my upcoming move and trip!

Mar 25 2024
  • Snippet: I was walking around some world with Kel and possibly Jon, and at one point Kel left her bags and stuff in a room owned by a nice old man that she passed by, even though they didn’t know each other. He kept it there for her and said that he hadn’t even so much as opened her bags, and that she could come by and pick it up at anytime. I asked her if she wanted me to stop by and pick it up on her behalf but she said no, and that she’d do it herself when she had time.
  • Snippet: Later, we came across a lava pool with three canisters that looked like large spacesuit helmets lying in the lava itself. We could see through the visors of the helmets that the first two canisters had an NPC inside each one, while the third, rightmost one had an entrance to a subterranean zone called the Galactic Core that we had been searching for but had not found up until that point. That entrance looked too suspicious and shaky to use though so I said that we were going to pass on using it.
Mar 30 2024
  • I visited an Ice and Fire themed museum as part of a school class trip with some Dunman friends. The museum was surrounded by a lake that could be deactivated to let people in and out, and our class waited outside the lake for our turn in the museum. For whatever reason I was not lined up with my classmates though, and I was walking around the area in a scouting sort of role, so I swam across the lake and went into the museum to confirm that that was the right place that we were going to, and then waited in there in the cool air-conditioned building instead of out in the sun with everyone else. Eventually it becames our class’s turn to enter the museum and the lake was lowered so that they could enter. I rejoined them smugly at that point.
  • Later on we were dismissed from the museum and made our ways home from there. I walked back toward my home with Yucheng and possibly one other person. We crossed an overhead bridge, then went into an alley of shops where I stopped to chat with a shopkeeper who was selling plushies. I said it was cute, and he said that they were from a retailer named Q or something like that, which I was apparently familiar with as I nodded and said that I had seen similar plushies elsewhere.
  • The conversation went on a bit longer than either Yucheng or I were comfortable with, as the owner was a bit too friendly, but eventually I extricated myself and we moved on. We then passed through a coffeeshop, and I saw two copies of Book 5 of the Lone Wolf gamebook series, The Plague Lords of Ruel, seated on a shelf there. I picked one up and looked around to see if I could keep it as I was missing that book for my collection. No one seemed to mind so I kept it. Someone had scribbled their name in pencil inside of the book’s front cover, but otherwise it was in good condition.
  • Finally, I remember passing a large obelisk that gave us and other people around it some sort of buff, as well as being reprimanded for something that happened at some other shop or building that we then had to be rescued from by other people.
  • Editor: The Plague Lords of Ruel is actually Book 13 of the Lone Wolf gamebook series, and I am not actually missing either books 5 or 13 in my real life collection. I am missing other books though.
Mar 31 2024
  • Snippet: I remember at one point taking part in a game tournament where I was inside a room and there was a piece of amethyst glass guarding the only entrance to the room. I had five or six defending mages and as long as I held down two keys on my controller, I could cast a barrier spell that made the amethyst glass impervious to any attacks while my mages worked on defeating the enemy units outside from safety. I won a few rounds like this, but eventually started to fight teams that were much higher level than me, and one of them had a charging unit that burst through the glass anyway, then ran to my team’s crystal heart in an adjacent room and destroyed that, eliminating us. I told that other player that I was surprised I had made it so far with that one strategy since by that time the enemies I was facing were 10 times our levels.
  • Snippet: I was walking around with someone and we entered what I can only describe as a large room in the middle of a sidewalk, which didn’t move but had two doors on opposite walls that acted as borders of two separate areas, so the room was a sort of buffer zone between the two. There was a man in there from the next zone that we were going into, which was an oppressive regime, and he told us that we could only speak to people of the same gender as us in that zone or we would face punishment. Once we entered the zone itself, I continued with my friend along the sidewalk and led her toward a crosswalk with a shortcut that would get us to near the exit of the zone. Across the crosswalk was a sloped field with a bunch of bright flowers on it arranged in neat columns, and to the left of that was another slope with a narrow path leading up to the current zone’s exit.

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