My Diary #145

Dear Tigey,

I hope you like the new wallpaper. So far I really like it. It’s inspiring to me. And looks great (to me) on both desktop and mobile. Reach out for the lonely stars!

Entry #145 (Jun 30 2024)

Life

About $4,000 got removed from my bank account this week to pay off the credit card bill from the trip that I just took. After doing some calculations, I deposited a bunch of money that I had lying around the house from old red packets that people had given me from Chinese New Year and birthday gifts in the past, that I had just been reallly lazy about and never ended up depositing into the bank until now, plus about $180 worth of remaining Singapore money that converted into $170+ worth of Canadian dollars, into my RBC bank account. I also transferred a bit over from my Scotiabank account, while making sure to leave me with the requisite $6,000 there to avoid the monthly existential fee on my account.

According to my calculations, after those transfers, I will scrape by with about $5 left in my RBC account in the financially narrowest part of next month, the period of time after my rent is withdrawn (Jul 01) and before my first paycheque comes in (Jul 06-07). After that, I should be fine, and will be accumulating money again from there going forward, with all my remaining expenditures from my trip paid off except for an amount that I owe Kel for living at her place for some time and for her booking some things for me on her dime (so that I could return her the amount in Canadian dollars and bypass an exchange fee on her part, while lessening the immediate expenditure load for me while I travelled). That one I will probably pay off near the end of next month. Having $5 left in my bank account will be pretty wild though. (I charge most purchases to my credit card so this shouldn’t affect my day-to-day living.)

I have about $64,000 in the RBC account locked up in short-term investments that will unlock in the middle of July though, and with that, along with $8,000 more in my First Home Savings Account, I will look toward finally taking the first steps toward buying my first home, and use that amount as a downpayment toward the home. I went to speak to my RBC mortgage agent this week and got preapproved for a 5.07% 3-year fixed interest rate loan for a $280k mortgage over 25 years or something like that. Together with the money I have on hand, we agreed that I should aim for about a $350k home. He said he would try to get a better rate (than 5.07%) for me from the bank too due to “loyalty rates” but that he would get back to me on that. As of the end of the week, he hasn’t gotten back to me on that.

He put me in touch with a realtor that RBC works with, who set up a realtor portal for me, filtered to properties worth 300k-380k or so around Edmonton and with a few other filters on top of that. I then promptly took that portal and shared the link with my parents and siblings as well as my online friends to browse. I doubt I will find my perfect home right away, since I ideally need one near a transit station and/or a good supermarket, but we shall see. The times, they are somewhat exciting. However, since this came in the same day as the Steam sale started this year, Jun 27th, and since there’s a lot of things on my backlog from my trip still, there are a lot of other things vying for my attention that need doing.

My mortgate specialist at RBC also helped me lay out some of what my finances would look like going forward. On a 350k house, my mortgage payment per month would be around $1,640, property tax would be $265, house insurance would be around $150, and utilities would probably be around $500. In total, I should expect to set aside about $2,555 per month just for all that. I make about $4,300 a month after taxes, so that leaves me about $1,750 left over, $1,250 after the monthly tithe to my parents. That would go toward food and other purchases, which is more than fine as I usually do somewhere between $500-$900 in a typical month, but what does worry me a bit is how I build a nest egg from there to deal with ongoing house costs that will definitely pop up from time to time. That and initial furniture costs. I’ll probably aim to save at least a hard amount of $400 a month toward that, but try to put at least $500 a month if possible to start.

There’s other things that will help with that over time too — inflation, for one, will probably slowly raise my salary while the monthly payment wouldn’t really increase. As I understand it it’s sort of built in to the interest rate I have to pay already. If my parents move in eventually, that would help a lot too, though I’m not counting on that as a sure thing.

I feel like I will need to set aside at least $20,000 in savings before I feel like I can cover almost any eventuality with the house. I also want to see if I can get some solar panels going as soon as possible since that will pay itself off over time, but I will need a spreadsheet of all the things that normally need replacing in a house, and how long since they were last replaced, so that I can figure out when I have enough of a window (where I don’t expect anything to be replaced) for that. Don’t know how I’m ever going to afford a vehicle though, or go on vacation ever again, but that’s fine. Maybe I should find a secondary source of income at some point.

Still, home ownership is exciting to think about! And this is only possible because my Japan study abroad trip got cancelled. And I look forward to this, because even though my new neighbours are relatively speaking a LOT quieter than the Ukrainian moron above my old place, especially at night, I still do hear random thumps now and then, sometimes sudden and loud enough to make me jump.

Talking about inflation and money, seeing this made me irrationally angry this week:

As recently as two weeks ago, Safeway was selling their 5lb bags of potatoes for $5.99 per bag — I have receipts stating this since I bought one back then. But this week, they were suddenly at $7.99 base price. Inflation? More like profiteering off of essentials. I rage passed on buying potatoes from the store after seeing this. Coming back the very next day, I saw that they had put a discount on it and pretended that it was a good price:

So $7.49 instead of $7.99 on a discount — how kind. I think my next house has to be near an actual good supermarket. Maybe a Walmart or a No Frills, plus an Asian supermarket of some kind, would be the best. I’d even take a Superstore over Safeway and Sobeys at this point, although I’m not sure they’re any cheaper.

I got tired of the pigeons returning to my balcony so I picked up a water gun from the dollar store this week. It leaks if I put it down on the table on one side but not if I put it down on its other side, which is weird, but whatever. I haven’t given the birds their comeuppance yet but it will come.

I went to the Asian supermarket this week for the first time since coming back to Canada, and along the way I passed the little power spot pavilion nearby that I like.

While standing in it, I saw a cat in the front window of the house next to it. And I snapped a picture of said cat.

I took a nice walk over to the supermarket, and while there, I found a bottle of a very familiar bottled Japanese tea, my favourite Juurokucha from Asahi. It was expensive though, but who am I to complain? I was happy to find it in Edmonton at all, even though it tasted slightly different. It had a totally different bottle wrapper design that I had never seen before as well, so I had to buy it just for that if nothing else.

All those teas are around a dollar back in Japan though. I also like trying out new ingredients in my “Immunity Soup” hotpot dish that I make several times a week, and this trip I bought a packet of dried lily petals to add to the soup. So far they have either tasted fragrant but a bit mushy, or got completely overwhelmed by all the other ingredients in the soup, though.

I also saw this week that they had added more bins to the recycling area outside the local overpriced Safeway.

The actual recycling area is to the right of these bins, there’s a bunch of large blue bins for things like books and cardboard and other things to throw away. Cars come by regularly to toss things into those bins. This white bin has never been here though, and the green bin has been here but it used to be that it would only be here through the summer months, and then removed for the winter. Last year, the year I donated stuff to it in preparation for the Japan study abroad session that never happened, it stayed for the entire year. Now, there are two of them!! I approve.

The Japan Jam 2024 festival that I went to with Quintopia in May released their online concert broadcast this week, although instead of showing the full footage of all the concerts they just played a couple of songs from each artist and called it. They also showed some backstage scenes and stuff though and that was nice. I found our mugs in two segments of the concert footage, for Atarayo (あたらよ) and Yamato Mori (森大翔) below respectively, and we joked that it was nice that he wore a recognizable hat for me to find us in the videos. (They probably centered a couple of shots on him because he was practically the only visibly Caucasian foreigner there though. There were barely any overseas visitors at all since tickets were obnoxious to get a hold of.)

I downloaded something like 25 GB of the concert footage since they’re only up on a password-protected archive site and only until Jul 07th. I even had to grab a video downloader addon (I used one called Ant Video Downloader which also required a locally installed app) to get it, but it worked great. This also reminded me to back up all the videos from that Japan Jam blog entry page (and replace a few links that were not working outside of Japan).

Lastly, here are some nice skies from this week. Firstly a couple of shots from last Sunday, the 23rd, when there were angel ladders in the sky at around 7:10 pm.

Then from Thursday the 27th, when it was overcast and on-and-off raining for nearly the entire day, with the temperature hovering around 16-17 degrees Celsius for most of the day. It was very nice weather.

And here are some sunset squiggles that I liked seeing splashed across the sky on Friday evening at 10:11 pm.

I also received this email about a First Responders Appreciation BBQ event happening in two weeks from now in the south parking lot of Southgate Centre:

I hadn’t been subscribed to their newsletter until recently so I never heard about it, but although my new apartment has no view of the little courtyard in the middle of the apartment complex where I live, where the annual Midwest Residential Appreciation BBQ is held, I apparently should have a pretty great view of this one, since that’s the parking lot on the left side of the shopping mall in the pictures above!

Games

What was also $8 this week was this month’s Humble Choice discount. Instead of a $15 bundle, they gave me a 50% coupon that made it $7.33 instead, and Jah paid me $2.62 more for a couple of spare keys from it, so it was nice getting 6 games (none of which I will ever play anyway) for under $5.

I poured a ton more time into Esports Godfather this week, in advance of the Steam sale, winning the toughest league while contemplating whether 100% achievements was attainable or not. It might be, I’m not sure yet, but I plan to pivot to other games once the Steam sale starts anyway so I’m not sure I’ll bother yet.

That being said, Steam released a game streaming feature into beta this week, which keeps an ongoing recording of gameplay footage that one can turn into videos afterwards, and I tried it on a high-level game of Esports Godfather to see if it worked or not. It worked really well, but Steam obviously cannot host the videos the way that it can host screenshots that the player takes, so I made one video and uploaded it to YouTube instead. It’s linked below for posterity.

While setting this up, I noticed that I have a hell of a lot of watch hours on my channel, thanks to one video with 754k views on it (currently) that really should probably be copyright striked but that went viral some time ago for some reason. And also a lot of random followers from that, even though I never upload much of anything. In fact I’m not that far from YouTube Partner and monetization, though it’s not something I want to do at the moment, especially since I think it’s somewhat illicit.

Anyway, I’m browsing through a lot of games in the Steam sale but have not decided on any purchases as yet. There are a lot of candidates, though.

Plushie of the Week #140

The fourth plushie that I chronologically bought on my trip, and brought back with me to Canada, was Icekurage, or Ice Jellyfish. This plushie was part of this San-X Ice Cream Jinbesan promotion (local), from which I also picked up two of the three ice cream plushies to give to Kel as presents (she already had the third for some unknown reason!) — they will get their own future Plushie of the Week post though.

This ice jellyfish plushie was bought from a Sanmin store at Taipei Main Station Underground Mall, in Taipei, Taiwan, on May 11 2024. His original price was 1,155 NTD (New Taiwan Dollar), but due to me buying a couple other plushies at the same time, it was discounted down to 1,040 NTD instead. According to Google, this is equivalent to $43.80 CAD today.

At the time, this was the last Icekurage that they had in stock. I had selected a couple of the other ice cream topping plushies from the display shelf as well, and for those the store attendant took some fresh plushies from the stock in the back room for me instead. But for Icekurage, she couldn’t find any more stock for him in the back room, so she instead wrapped the one that was on the display shelf up for me, and gave me that instead. So he’s a rescue plushie!

Icekurage probably needs a better name at some point, but I don’t mind the name that he has for now. But if he has one that organically comes up over time, then great, since it’s very much just a straight descriptor of what he is at the moment.

Plushie front:

Back:

Top view:

Underside tentacle view:

Tag front:

Tag back:

Smaller tag front:

Smaller tag back:

And a bonus roundtable chat picture with some of Kel‘s plushies when I was in her Guangzhou apartment on May 23 2024:

He’s so big!

Song of the Week #117

Title: Baker Street
Artist: Gerry Rafferty
Album: City to City (1978)

I didn’t know what the title of this song was for quite some time, though the really catchy saxophone riff would come to mind now and then through the years until I got irritated at one point and hunted the song down and plopped it in my Spotify library (on Feb 01 2014, apparently).

I don’t really have “real life” memories of this song, rather my associations with this song are daydream and game-related. Baker Street as a name is obviously related to Sherlock Holmes, and so my original connotations of this song were (and still are) noir fantasy related, which I expect is pretty common. I definitely romanticize England and Scotland in my mind and would like to spend some time visiting both urban and rural places in the United Kingdom at some point, preferably with a friend.

Eventually though, my associations with this song drifted away from detective noir and into the modern day as I associated it moderately strongly with first walking or driving around in the Grand Theft Auto games, and then at some point it took on a cyberpunkish musical aesthetic for me. Not the doom and gloom sort of cyberpunk that’s popular in media like Cyberpunk 2077 though, but a mellower, megacorporation-owned futuristic city that still has its own set of problems under the surface while being more realistic than the most popular strains of cyberpunk media tend to be. One day I will bring this city to life and write my own stories within my own game or something, and at that point my inspiration will be backed by songs like this.

In the meantime, I like this song and promoted it to my S-Tier Spotify list about two years ago, and now it’s here.

Writing Prompt of the Week #60

This week’s writing prompt reads:

How did your relationship with your parents change in high school? Tell a story that shows this new dynamic.

This doesn’t answer the question exactly, but it’s still a writing prompt for something I want to think about and note down to possibly edit in the future, so it’ll do.

One thing that’s always confused me is how I got home from school. Back in Peiying, since the school was so near from home, I simply walked home, often meeting Mom or my Auntie 795 babysitter across the one road I had to cross in front of my Yishun 799 block.

The walk back was a bit further once we moved to Yishun 723, and the overlap between me being in Peiying and us living at Yishun 723 was slightly less than a year I think. I think I sometimes did walk back too but most of the time I think I took a school bus. I have memories of a school bus going around the loop around Yishun 723 and our adjacent block, Yishun 724, and dropping off people on both ends of the block. That could not have been a Rosyth School memory, it was far enough away that there was no chance that normal students from Yishun went there.

In Rosyth, I definitely sometimes took the school bus, but there was also a lot of times when I didn’t make the bus due to ECA or other events, and Dad had to come pick me up instead. I remember sometimes waiting in the bus depot/front porch with Zixiang, Huihan and others, but sometimes I walked out of the Rosyth neighbourhood onto the main road as well, and I don’t remember why I did this. Did I take a bus home from there? Or meet Dad out there somewhere? It’s a mystery.

In Dunman, I started taking public transportation home myself, so I took a bus from the school to Kallang MRT Station, and then a train from there to Tampines MRT Station, and then the 292 bus home from there.

Once we moved to Canada, I was only in Vernon Barford for half a year and it was during our first winter season there, so I got rides home from either Dad or Uncle Droy most of the time.

Now.. for high school, what did I do? McNally High School was quite far away from our house in Mill Woods, but I think I took a school bus back nonetheless and stopped at a road junction outside the little subdivision of houses that we lived in. I’m not 100% sure on this though, though I have a memory of sitting in front of a girl from one of my classes talking to another girl on the bus about how she had a hard time finding a boyfriend because guys thought she was too pretty or something and no one dared to approach her. I’m not 100% certain on this because I oddly don’t have too many memories otherwise about the school buses (which we would have boarded from the bus stop in front of McNally High School). Conversely, I do seem to remember buying bus passes from the school store itself, though I feel like those were general Edmonton Transit System bus passes. Would I have needed that for the school bus? Maybe.

All this came to mind as an initial answer because the dynamic of whether, and how often, my Dad (or occasionally Uncle Droy) picked me up from school changed once we came to Canada. Back in Singapore, he drove a motorcycle around and often did courier jobs, so he could pick me up in the late afternoon and bring me home if needed, and I enjoyed and have good memories riding pillion behind him on the bike.

In Canada, however, as part of our migration here under the business immigration route, Dad had to open and operate a business, which turned out to be a coin laundry and drycleaning drop-off service that also provided internet access to people while they waited for their laundry. What this meant was that he would sometimes have to close the shop to come fetch us (me and my siblings) when needed, when we couldn’t catch the buses home, but because he couldn’t leave the shop closed for too long, he would bring us back to his shop to wait for closing time instead of right home.

This meant we’d sometimes spend the late afternoon to early evening in a spare room in the laundry shop, where the air was dry and we’d get static shocks when touching metal, and have to listen to his long-winded chats with customers who came to see him as much as to get their laundry done, since he was fairly social and knowledgeable on things. I don’t have a lot of good memories in this shop, however by this time I was more aware of the “sacrifice” my parents were making to fetch me home at times, although I was also told this to my face a lot once I started work after University (by both those points I was just using normal public transit to get home), as we argued about how much filial piety tithe I had to give my parents every month just because they did the same to the paternal grandparents back in Singapore in a very different economy.

Memory Snippet of the Week #124

I talked about red packets above in the Life section, and I felt like I needed to devote a quick Memory Snippet segment to them so I have something to point back to in the future when talking about them.

Red packets, or ang bao in Singapore’s Hokkien/Singlish dialect, are symbols of prosperity and luck, and given from the older generation to the younger generation on birthdays, and around Chinese/Lunar New Year (and sometimes the regular western Christmas or New Year as well). There’s usually anywhere from $5 to $20 of the local currency in there, so it can get pretty expensive pretty fast in large families like Dad‘s, hah.

I received a lot of them in my younger days, though they generally don’t happen anymore once someone reaches their mid-20s and hits graduation/full time job age. I still get them from my parents around Chinese New Year though. I’ve kept most of the ones I’ve ever received in a box, and for the longest time I never bothered depositing the money that I received in them too, instead leaving them in a pile next to said box. I obviously have deposited them in the past though, since I didn’t have any Singaporean money in the pile at all, and I deposited all the folded $10 and $20 notes that I had this week into the bank for a cool $370 or so so that I can pass the start of next month without having to withdraw money from my other Scotiabank account (which would incur a $35 fee).

Anyway, I took out all the red packets this week to make sure that no money was still secreted away in any of them, and while they were out I also laid them out and took a picture of all the unique ones that I have. I had a lot of repeats too but I left those out of the picture. As you can see from the picture below, a lot of them actually come from banks, particularly Hong Kong Bank, in my family circle at least.

Some of the red envelopes actually had annotations on the reverse side, so I could see that some of them were from my dearly departed paternal grandfather Ah Kong, or Auntie Doris, or Uncle Droy. It was cool to see that I had a handwriting sample from Ah Kong. Some envelopes were labelled with dates in 1998, 2000, or 2002, and at least one red packet itself has a picture with the year 2000 on it as well, so some of these envelopes go waaay back.

The other memory I have attached to these is that besides money, we also use red packets to hold charms, that we then slip into our wallets or purses. There are two in my wallet, for example, one holding a Buddhist charm of some sort and the other holding a coin that my parents gave me, that I think was supposedly blessed by a Buddhist medium back in Singapore as well.

I’ve had different ones over different phases of my life, but these are the ones that I currently have and that I have had for over a decade, possibly two, at this point.

Dreams
Jun 24 2024
  • I was at an overseas Science Centre on a school trip with my friends. Today was my last day studying at the same school with them, as they were heading off on a bus from the Science Centre and returning to school in our home country, while I was permanently moving on via train to a third country to work there for at least 3 years. I walked together with them out of the Centre, across a road and then along a white path that cut through some fields, and watched them board the bus home with all their luggage as my heart ached and missed them and I thought about how lonely and exhausting the next few years in another country by myself would be.
  • I walked back toward the Centre, passing a tree where I saw a snake roosting in the branches, and then walking along the side of the road where I saw a manhole cover indicating that certain exotic animals like that snake could sometimes be found in the area. I reentered the Centre’s front lobby, which had turned into my school lobby, and silently said my goodbyes to the building as I collected my belongings, one of them a sword or something of similar length that I tucked and concealed beneath my long skirt.
  • I walked from there to a train station, then looked around several times until I found a small passage leading to the actual fare gates. I still had time before I had to head off though, and I heard a couple of girls entering the station somewhere behind me who were apparently searching for someone that was carrying the sword that I was concealing, so I wanted to lay low for a bit. I found a large map that showed me that the station was connected to a mall, and to get there I would have to head southeast through a passage, then follow the left wall and take the eastern exit through a couple of forks in the path, and I would be at the brightly-lit REIT mall. There would be a food court and nice shops there and maybe I would feel less lonely in it.
Jun 25 2024
  • I, Nomakk, and another person named Shirodemon from Nomakk‘s Twitch community were playing a game with a 2D tile map and a 3D cave exploration system. The 2D tile map allowed us to walk around and reveal tiles and claim things like temples and shrines that we found to gain buffs. We then went into a cave system and it went into 3D exploration mode.
  • In the cave system, we had to cleanse the cave but weren’t sure how or even what was hurting us, until I accidentally cleared a small portion and noticed that the plants were actually demon fungi, and that we killed them by looking at them, at which point they withered and curled up into a little hook-shaped green and pink bundles of plant fibre.
  • We then ran around the cave, clearing several levels by staring intently into all the alcoves and corners and watching all the fungi shrivel away into nothing. Shirodemon ran down a passage as Nomakk called out his name and said hello, and I said something about not confusing Shirodemon and the demon fungi as their names were similar.
  • In a little bit, Shirodemon came running back, as he said that he ran into a giant demon plant that was walking about, and had mutated into something with giant arms that were flailing about. It was also changing colours from green to yellow even as he looked at it while it was attacking him. We decided to pull back and deal with it later.
  • At some point, Nomakk said he was thinking of streaming wirelessly but wasn’t sure how to do so from his phone. I looked at my own phone and said that I could help set him up the correct apps on his phone to do so.
Jun 26 2024
  • I dreamt that Dad passed away, and although I don’t remember much about the overall dream, I remember that I was thinking about my upcoming blog post and noting that this was one of the two big things that had happened this week that I needed to write about. I also remember a surge of panic upon thinking that I would never be able to see him again.
  • There was an overall plotline as well where I was in a building and doing some kind of task and this was more difficult to do without Dad around. That or it was something that would have ended up producing something he liked or something like that. There were other people around that I was talking to and coordinating with, I don’t remember the exact detail behind the task though.
Jun 28 2024
  • Jon, Kel, and I were playing a base-building and survival massively multiplayer game in a world where we had set up a little temporary base in the forest near the spawn point to start. The room we were in was drafty though, and when it rained, I saw a cockroach, a housefly, and several other insects appear in the room as well. I swatted them away, but by the time I steeled myself to be able to squash the cockroach, it was nowhere to be found and I didn’t see it for the rest of the dream. I later discovered that the window was still ajar and that was likely how the bugs had entered and left.
  • The game also had a space battle component, although this was something we watched rather than took part in. There was a 2D map overlay of the solar system, with a huge inner ring centered around the sun that was controlled by aliens and then our planet’s orbit just outside of that ring. Alien ships grouped up in groups of 4 along the edge of their controlled border, while human ships patrolled the outside of that. They occasionally clashed, with the alien ships trying to hit the human ships with weapons that looked like ball-and-chain flails attached to the ships. The humans laid down mines that floated on the space board in retaliation, and tried to push the mines into the alien ships, which would make them blow up.
  • This was an ongoing fight with an ebb and flow that we watched happen, and this also somehow affected us player characters, with most starting characters having some sort of restriction about what they could do because of the alien overlords overseeing us. This included Kel‘s character, as well as about a dozen other random players that we could see stuck near spawn. However, I knew magic, which allowed me to bypass the zone restrictions, and Jon was also able to bypass it for some reason or other. Once the two of us were stable in the starting zone, I suggested that we moved out of the starting zone and found a new base so that Kel could get out of that area too. The other two agreed.
  • We packed up and started moving, with each of us carrying a number of plastic bags and paper bags that we had packed our owned items in. We were playing this game in the living room of whatever apartment we were staying in, so Mom came along at some point and somehow helped us carry some bags too before wandering off again. I also cast a mark spell on the location that would let me teleport back to that location in case we realized that we had forgotten to move something later on.
  • It was nightfall by the time we got to a suitable place in some red-coloured mesa landscape, and Kel built a little castle base with a couple of small spires where we put down all our stuff. When the sun came up again the next morning though, we discovered that there were a couple other player bases near us that we had failed to see in the night, two roads that we had not seen and that crossed each other to form a crossroads on the other side of a small hill from us.
Jun 30 2024
  • Snippet: All I remember is one particular part where Jon did not have properly working legs and was unable to walk, and how I helped pick him up from his house and helped him into a family car, with which I normally took turns sharing driving duties with Kel, and then drove Jon and I together toward wherever Kel was located to fetch her. We were vaguely being chased by some sort of timed cloud enveloping the land or something, and at one point I drove onto something that propelled the car up and over the side of the highway curb on the car’s right, then along a black, oily path through the sky and into a portal of some kind, before landing in Yishun in Singapore, on a grassy field next to a pair of startled, rich women. This was very far away from whatever timed thing was chasing us, so it would have been safe, but I still hadn’t reached Kel to pick her up yet at that point, so I bade the two women farewell and used magic to rewind time for the car, which sent it and its two passengers back up through the portal and onto the highway road back in the location that we came from.

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