Yes, January Was a Bad One

Yes, finally, it is almost over with just a mere hand full of hours left before we move into February. I would be a liar if I said that January 2015 was awesome and these last thirty-one days went without a hitch. This month will be marked as one of most “nail-biting” periods that I have had in a very long time. From work to inflation, there were times when I thought that for sure I was going to sink into debt and find myself sounded with bills that are in arrears as work fizzled out and costs suddenly rose. Luckily, none of these situations came to past.

At my work, I am designated as a part-time labourer. I use only a small fraction of my skill-sets; mainly my job is to move boxes, the lowest denominator of skill is required for this task. Your weight of usefulness is measured in terms of endurance and obedience. If you perform to a standard of expectation, then you are kept. If you fail to meet this standard then you are never called back, or your time served is reduced. I was fortunate to have earned my usefulness to the point that for the last half of January I managed to obtain almost full-time hours.

Using my work’s colloquial jargon, “my bacon was saved,” as I found myself with utility bills that increased overall by 10 percent, and extra charges in a couple of services that I use that magically appeared. As of today, with the flood of time-served at my work, adding one very healthy pay cheque that is on its way, I can breath easy for one more month in the slow season.

January 2015, will be marked as a time when costs soared. Every utility, service, item that I use on a daily bases, with the exception of gasoline for my vehicle, has risen sharply. And when faced with reduced time-at-work, pitted up against the rise of inflation, I was sure that I was going to join the growing number of Canadians who are in real hardship. Cutting back, cutting off, austerity at the deepest personal level, is the new norm. Finding ways of cutting taxes, buying cheaper goods, letting go of more expensive conveniences, and switching back to a more basic lifestyle, are not just fads and choices, these are necessities now.

So I survived it. February should at least be a little better with the money that I earned so far. I am not out of woods yet. People around me are falling through the web of debt faster than our government can cut another service. As people around me “fail” in the economic sphere, in their wake they could take me down with them. My landlord could sell his land, and force me to move; my work could suddenly fail, as it is a retail outlet; my government could raise taxes to unprecedented levels never seen before in my lifetime, leaving us begging for handouts while moving into a cardboard box underneath the shrubs at City Hall. Fortunately, Doctor Doom’s chronicles have not come to past yet for me–fingers crossed that they do not–and I can move through this, keeping my dignity.

Too Much Pineapple Express “O”

With yet another deluge of water from the heavens, this last weekend’s Pineapple Express seemed more damaging than past storms. This time, the little creek beside my place turned into a torrent of mud, quickly filling in the little duck pond and flower bed that once severed as a place to sit and read, and the creek itself now has shifted its banks, moving closer to my home. I doubt that I ever will be in any significant danger, but the time that it will take to clean it up will be a source of posts to come.

The Pineapple Express of January 23 3015 Weblog Image

Two things I noticed that were different from past storms that send torrents of water down this little creek. First, was how quickly the water level moved up, bringing with it unusually high amounts of mud with it. I had to dig out the little culvert that runs underneath my driveway. Grass and sticks were getting jammed inside of it, causing the water to back up. I was worried that if the water was going to flow over my driveway, then it too would start flooding under my home, and possibly washing out my driveway altogether. Second, when I got home from work on Thursday, around 6:00am on January 22, 2015, the entire creek was covered in a thick layer of foam. The foam gave off a really rich, pungent smell, like fungus or a mushroom smell. It was to dark to take any good photo of it, but when it was light enough the foam started to disappear.

I had never seen this creek do this before in the two years that I have lived here. But then, this year seems to be starting off as a super wet pattern, with some really bad rain storms every couple of weeks. Maybe it is time to start thinking about investing in some sand bags?

Sitting, Waiting and Staring at My Cursor.

I have about two hours to kill right now. I am waiting for my shift to start, going from my normal graveyard shift, over to a afternoon shift as I do more holiday relief in other departments. Today, and for the next two and a half weeks, I will be back in receiving at my work, but right now I figured I needed sleep an extra few hours to help switch my body over to the cycle. So far it has not seem to have made any difference; sleeping was hard to do, and staying awake in the middle of the night was a challenge, so it appears that I will go through at least three days of adjustment no matter what.  So I sit, waiting, staring at my monitor, watching my cursor wag its little tail waiting for me to do something on my desktop.

Waiting_WeblogJan21-2015

So I decided to write about it. I know what you are thinking…, “Oh how sick you are, wasting bandwidth over the Net with your useless text-babel.” Sure, this post seems to be about a whole lot of nothing, but I did create a funny GIF animated image for it, which I should remind you, this did kill about an half hour of time for me too; and the post itself should take me another Twenty minutes to write, killing even more time. So, posting this did serve its purpose: to kill some time for me as I wait to leave for my shift.

So just before I press the “Publish” button on my web browser, I sit, waiting, staring at my little cursor waging its little tail, waiting for me to push my mouse and click it–I have more time to kill, should I wait longer? Reluctantly, I give in, and commit to the uploading of my text, and prepare to move onto something else that will pass my time until I need to leave.  So here I sit, waiting, staring one last time, still with time on my hands.

Sure, It Was Sunny, but….

Working night-shift, I miss the daylight becuase I am sleeping through it, but when I get my time off, I like to stay up a little longer to enjoy whatever daylight I can get. As we get deeper into winter, sunlight is an all to rare experience for me: with short days and the weather, any opportunity to sit in the Sun’s rays is taken. Today we had a very Sun filled day in the Fraser Valley, but here at home in Glen Valley/Fort Langley, you would have never of known it.

Fort Langley Fog - January 19 2015 Weblog Image

Fog! For most of the morning, until I went to bed, the Sun barely shone through it. As the day warmed up, hitting the 8C mark, the dew and fog seemed to be getting thicker outside, so I just called it a day and went to bed. It was not until I talked to a friend of mine this evening (after I got up) who told me the day was a perfect sunny day down by White Rock, BC about 30km from where I live. He said there were hardly any clouds in the sky. When I looked outside as the sky was turning dark, there was a nice blanket of fog hugging the trees. I told him that I missed it, never saw it, too damn foggy out–but it was sure warm for this time of year.

What the Girls Say

As I was sitting in the lunch room today reading my E-Reader (with head phones on), and there were about six, twenty-something ladies have a full on discussion about their partners, boy friends and past partners. And I could hear very easily over my music as they all chimed in at once about how their Male counterparts lacked communication, in particular in the relationship category. I found it ironic (in the true sense) that what they what were asking for were their partners to detail what they wanted in the relationship, that men should step up and say it instead of let them doing all of the talking.

One of the women spoke up and said that she was tired of her having to make all of decisions: going out to a movie, when the cleaning should be done, who should we visit. Another said, “my boyfriend never tells me what he wants, he just goes along with it…” While another woman said that she hates her ex boyfriend, but she still misses him becuase they would talk a lot.

It was very hard for me to keep a straight face while I was reading, sitting there, hearing all of this. But once they went back to the work-floor when their breaks were over, they got me thinking about communication in general between the sexes in today’s society. I honestly do not see any set standard for what role men and women play in the whole cohabitation game. There seems to be no guidelines on what is appropriate for a pair-bond to take place. Sure, there is Holly-Weird [Hollywood], but that is just pure fantasy, not real life; however, it is our only benchmark for any kind of set standard for couples to engage in. I have to admit, for the boys, it is hard to take the first step–the thought of rejection is a very painful pill indeed for some–so why take the risk. Some take it well, while other’s do not.

One of the women proclaimed that she will take the first step, that she is not afraid to ask a boy out, or engage in a relationship that she wants pursue. She admitted proudly that she met her boyfriend from her last job, and that she asked him out. She said “sometimes you have to make the first move.”

I said (to myself) Bravo! If this is where our Canadian social standard has taken us in the dating game in 2015, then so be it. I think it is for the best. I certainly see nothing wrong with the girls taking the lead. It seems that the whole 1950s–nuclear family cliché is out the window already, so why not accept a switch in gender role playing. If she likes someone, then let her take the first step in initiating the pair-bond process–first contact, leading up to a “date.” If it does not work out, well then, she too can call it off. If we can clear the social stigma of letting Females choose without giving them negative labels, then I think there would be more happier couples around today.

Disclaimer: I am by no means, a dating expert, but I did major in Sociology while doing my B.A.

Toss Salad

I am kind of laughing right now becuase some of the places where I do my food shopping have started to really hike up their prices, so when I buy from the farm down the road, I am getting some really good deals. I have done a complete change in my buying patterns now that I have a produce source very close to me. My “Vegetable Dealer,” I like to call them, have been having a bumper crop with their hot-house these last few weeks, so for them dropping their prices a little to encourage more buying has made my life a little better, and for the many others who shop there as well. As the large retailers start ramping up their prices, these little farmer’s markets are starting to look really good for deals–and better quality foods. Sadly I fear someday the Federal Government will create a law that will band this type of sales for awesome healthy food becuase these little farms are competing with the monster corporations, but that is just my own little bit of cynicism.

Salad jan 14 2015 Weblog Image 02

This was my breakfast before I headed into work. The only items that were not from the farm were the English Cucumbers; these came from a big box grocery store in Langley City (British Columbia, Canada) close to where I work. But in all, the salad was awesome. I also had a muffin with some raspberry jelly, and one egg, which almost classifies this salad as a Chef Salad?

The whole point of this post is to say that buying smart can save a few dollars over the long run. With my latest purchase, I estimated that I saved about five dollars, if I compared these prices to where I would normally shop. But it is the quality that counts–these guys (the farm near my place) do not use chemicals to treat their crops, and they rigorously keep their facility super clean. As for sharing their location, I was asked not to: not that they would not mind the business, but they feel they have more than enough customers as it is. So my little secret. :)

To the veggie farm!

What’s On My E-Reader: Neuromancer

With time on my hands, as work goes through its slow season, reading becomes my pastime, my escape as I try to keep myself entertained. The crap on television sucks, with its fifty percent allotted for commercial content, and what is left over, ninety percent of that is just garbage, so reading is my “legal” escape, satisfying my need to be entertained. I could download movies, but that is just wrong… cough.. cough.  So this week’s book is a novel that I read almost fifteen years ago, continuing on with my quest to revisit all of the books that I read when I was younger. Neuromancer (1984), by William Gibson is a read that as of today leaves me chuckling becuase he uses (and probably invented) the term Cyberspace, (among many other terms) and created his own version of a Matrix that one could travel through like the internet we have today, only your consciousness travels through it becuase you hook yourself up like a USB device.

Whats On My E-Reader Jan 11 2015 Weblog Image

Anyway, it was hard for me to revisit the book with the same sense of awe becuase so much of what made the story is no longer relevant, and over used. It is hard for me put it into words, but one example was how the telephone was used in the book. Of course today, who has a telephone in the sense that a telephone booth is almost a thing-of-the-past here in Canada, but it worked in the motion picture The Matrix, (1999), although that was almost fifteen years ago too.

William Gibson wrote Neuromancer while he was living in Vancouver, British Columbia, so this is like reading what my next door neighbour created, a sense of home grown talent. With out question he added his slice to the science fiction genre. Also, this is the first book of a trilogy, followed by Count Zero (1986), and Mona Lisa Overdrive (1988), known as the Sprawl trilogy. The books are loaded with terminology that are of common use today, though used differently.

Revisiting the World of the Low Poly Universe

With the release of Blender 2.73 just days old, I thought I would take it for a test run and do a series of quick low poly scenes with it, just to see how good some of the new features and improvements are. Rather than redoing some of my old art work, I just wanted to see how much the work-flow was improved on the user interface. I started fresh, and released my creative self, modelling off about ten scenes in a matter of hours. Overall, I like what they have done with the user interface; some of the old keyboard short cuts were a little cumbersome, but now at least, it seems to be faster, and the tool functions more logical when creating complex objects. I am not going to go into all of the details of improvements, but I just want to say Version 2.73 is proving to be a lot better in terms of work-flow, especially in the modelling process itself.

Low Poly Forest - Blender 2-73 January 9 2015 Weblog Image

The above image was my very first scene using Blender 2.73. I think low poly scenes are cool.

Within a few hours I had created a series of low poly scenes that I then could go further to animate. Instead I just stuck to static scenes, and focused on those small improvements to the modelling work-flow was, and how fast my machine could render a scene as the poly count increased. My video card seems to render about five percent faster once I got into a scene of about 400k plus worth of polygons, and using the Blender Cycles engine, the rendering time did improved. But what really worked for me was just how fast getting a scene modelled and rendered was. I am getting back into 3D modelling now, and Blender is my favourite modelling software to use.

The Comet: Lovejoy

It is always nice to have new and challenging objects to view up in the night sky. I have always liked comets, trying to photograph them, capturing their dim structures while getting that sharp image worthy of a page on a magazine. Well, we are in luck here in North America as a new stranger speeds through our Solar neighbourhood over the next few weeks. Comet Lovejoy, also known as “Comet Lovejoy, C/2014 Q2″ is high in our sky right now, and it appears to reaching a magnitude 4.8-5 brightness, and possibly getting brighter!

Comet Lovejoy C -2014 Q2 2015-01-08 23:00:00

Here is a screen shot I took today, showing where the comet will be at its highest in the night sky over Vancouver, British Columbia around 11:00pm Pacific Time for January 8, 2015. The software I used to track the comet is called Stellarium, and is a multi platform, free program that should work on all devices. Check the link if you want to download it and try it out. You will have to install the comet’s data file into Stallarium to include it on its main interface.

The best way to find it is to look for Orion, then look over to its right–use the image I posted above as a reference guide. With a good set of binoculars, you should see a greenish-blue hazy patch surrounding a pale bluish star. Once the Moon is out of the way, and your eyes are adjusted, you should have no troubles finding it. becuase we are getting lots of ground fog here, photographing the comet has been next to impossible, but I will try and capture it when the conditions are right.

The Slow Season

With all of the holiday frenzy now passed us, we head into the slow season. For most of us here in Canada, this is the time for vacations to warmer climate, or getting back to the regular grind of our normal routines, but after the high point of holiday season everything seems seems slow now. Well, everything does slow down right after the start of the new year becuase working in retail I see it first, the crowds just stop arriving and shopping is at a minimum. In fact, it is like a river that has gone from a flooding torrent, back down to just a trickle, all that is left is the clean up. So, how does this affect me?

Right after the holiday frenzy of spending the labour is now focused on the clean up, putting away all of the leftover inventory and displays that are no longer needed. So, for a week into the new year everyone works on the changeover back to normal, getting the sales floor ready for the next season, and that sense of high paced action still lingers. Also, this is the perfect time of year to prepare for the accounting frenzy, that once a year event when companies take stock of their inventories, so incoming stock is replaced at a minimum and the focus is the accuracy of received stock and company supplies, while less customers are walking through the doors. But this is also the time of year when the extra labour is no longer needed.

For new hires and part-time labour the practice is to simply cut back their hours, or in half of cases that I know of, to simply let them go, either in the form of a lay-off, or termination of employment. Right about now there is a small army of labourers in Canada who are now unemployed–I have no idea how many–but this way, as business try to stay competitive. In my case, I have managed to avoid the lay-off or termination, but I fit somewhere in the middle where my hours have been significantly reduced to facilitate the seasonal slowdown. For the foreseeable future of the next four weeks, at least, my hours have been reduced to one day per week. Yes, you heard me: one-day-per-week. With the rewriting of Labour Laws in my Province, British Columbia, employers seem to be free to keep their labour at ridiculous minimums of time needed. Gone are the days when a part-timer could depend on a twenty-hour work week.

In hindsight, this seems to be a zero sum game becuase now with less workers working, both retailers and Government now have less participants contributing overall into them. I will, of course, cut back on all spending, and with my income reduced, and so too are the encumbrances of taxes taken in the form of both Sales Tax, and Income tax from off of my income. Yes, I am laughing, but only becuase I saw this coming.

The “disposable employee” also carries a third edge of the sword, and that is the non-participation of spending on the large ticket items like buying a house or vehicle. Instead low income earners will continue renting, and buying used vehicles. As for renting, low wage earners are forced to move away from more expensive rental markets that could result in retailers having to figure out ways of getting cheap labour back into those local neighbourhoods to keep their costs down–they may have to increase the costs of their sales to cover the labour short fall as one way to fix this. In the cycle of gentrification, low wage earners are forced out of these affected areas, but what if neighbourhoods are economically failing; do they turn into ghost towns? Yes, disposable employees are not a driving force of the economic engine in Canada, and as the Harper Era rages on, so to seems the numbers of the working poor.

On the plus side, I look at January as a good opportune time to catch up my personal to-do lists, to regenerate, and focus on what matters to me.

I should also note that I still have a job, and I am still working. My situation where I work is very fluid, and changes constantly from one day to the next. I am not in any economic distress, as I saw this seasonal shift coming, so please do not be overly concerned with my well-being, I am fine.