Snippets

A bit of this and a bit of that…

  1. My back has been bothering me for the past few days. It’s just been stiff and sore. So out came the heating pad and the Ibuprofen. It’s gotten better now but I guess it wants to remind me to keep up with my stretching. And now my shoulder is bothering me.
  2. The other night my insomnia decided to show who’s the boss. I gave up sleeping around 4:30 AM and got out of bed. I wasn’t too tired and the day went by as usual. But I had to take a nap in the late afternoon. I was worried that I won’t be able to sleep at night. Oddly enough, my body went back to relatively normal sleep schedule that night.
  3. I just had another bad sleeping night. I was very sleepy after dinner last night and started to doze off. I decided to go to bed early. By 9PM, I was in bed, read for about 15 minutes and fell asleep. Just before I slept, I thought this is the fastest I’ve gone to sleep. I figured I would wake up around 5 AM and get a good start to my day. I woke up at midnight, fully alert. I read a bit, went to my desk to check on my laptop, went back to bed, read and fidgeted for a few hours. By 5:30, I decided to just get out of bed. I hope the two mugs of coffee I had in the morning will be enough to keep me going. Update: 11PM – I’m still awake and alert!
  4. I have a bunch of recurring dreams. Is it because my subconscious lacks imagination and have to go into reruns? In one of them, I’m leaving a retirement home. I have no idea who I was visiting or why I was there. It always starts with me leaving it. It feels like a large, 5 or 6 story brick building. I cross the street into a large, messy lawn of an old estate. It feels like something from the southern US. A hologram tiger will come out to check me out. I don’t know how I know it’s not a real tiger. But I still keep a wary eye on it when it comes near me. Weird dreams.
  5. I lost track of the days a couple of times this week. I woke up on Saturday thinking it was Friday. Sometimes it feels like there are eight days in a week. I don’t what to call this eighth day yet.
  6. My texts with J are sometimes sprinkled with weird nonsense. One night he asked what I made for dinner. I told him fried rice and added “everyone loved it”. Since I live alone, he asked “who is everyone?” I reply “my imaginary friends – they just adore my cooking. But they don’t do dishes.” Another day I told him of my ongoing battles ing with my arch enemy, the plump Kung Fu Panda. That Panda loves to sneak into my condo, steal food from my fridge, use my toilet and never flushes. Weird… yes I am. I just like to keep things interesting.
  7. I haven’t gone out to take pictures in a while. I get into these ruts regularly. I’m not sure why. Maybe I just need a bit more self discipline. Sometimes I can go out for a few hours and not see anything worth taking. Or I might take a few pictures but after reviewing them, I wonder what I saw.

I hope you’re all doing well. Stay strong and positive.

Looking Back…

Early in my career, I met this guy named Jack at work. He was smart, hard working and well liked. He had a wonderful sense of humour and treated everyone well. There was one large project that he worked on where he traveled back and forth between Montreal and Toronto. It had a lot of visibility with the senior execs of our company and of our client. It turned out well. From what I remember, Jack played a key role. The client was very happy and we had some new revenue.

He came back one last weekend to tie up some loose ends and for a team celebration. Jack and several colleagues left work early to go to a nearby bar. More joined after work and they stayed there until last call. When I saw him a couple of years later, he took the receipt out from his wallet. It was carefully folded. When he unfolded it, It was over a foot long. He smiled when he pointed to the eye popping total.

A few more years passed and Jack moved on to a sales role. I didn’t think it was a good fit for him. Then our Montreal office was hit with job cuts and Jack was let go. I heard from one of my colleagues that Jack was devastated. Months later, my colleague told me that Jack was just staying at home and not doing anything He wasn’t looking for a job even though he still had some decent marketable skills. A year or so later, another update – Jack sold his house and moved out of the city. No one knew where he was any more.

My colleague said that Jack’s life was his work. When he lost his job, he lost his sense of self worth and identity. Then I realized that all the times I chatted with Jack, he never mentioned family or anything outside of work. He always looked happy, quick with a joke and a smile.

Looking back at the long hours I worked, I was a borderline Jack. Maybe I became him. I was always conscious that I spent so much time at work and most of the people I associated with was from work. There just didn’t seem to be any free time. I was just so focused on my work. I made decent money and that provided me with a sense of security that my parents didn’t have. I’m fortunate that when I got laid off, I didn’t react the same way as Jack. I’m sure our circumstances were different. But I also have this ability to just shut down my emotions when I’m under a lot of stress. I might even joke around, smile and laugh so you won’t know.

If I traveled back in time, here’s what I would tell myself. As tough as work was, I would try to convince myself to move out of my comfort zone and work on four things.

  1. Work with a career coach – most people hire one when they don’t have a job. I think the right time to do this is when you have a job so you can identify weakness you need to work on, potential career paths, new skills to develop, when to move to a new role or new company, work life balance and dealing office politics. I have this nagging feeling that I stayed too long at my last company and should have moved earlier.
  2. Network with people outside my work – almost everyone I knew was from my company. It’s a large multinational company which had its advantages. But it would probably have been good to meet other people from different industries outside my company.
  3. Make friends outside of work – my friends were from work. But when I became a manager, I had to keep a distance from them. And it’s also tougher to make close friends as you get older. I have one good friend from university that I still keep in touch with. I’m grateful that I’ve made friends from blogging.
  4. Develop a source of passive income – I was always focused on the security of my salary. It provided me the security that my parents never had. But there are probably other sources of income that I should have looked at (e.g. investing in blue chip dividend paying stocks). It won’t be a huge source at the beginning but it would grow over time.

I had some wisdom and maturity back then, just not enough.

Night Time Work

I decided not to take my prescription sleeping pill because I thought I could beat my insomnia tonight. But it’s almost 2 AM. So I decided to do a bit of blogging and give you some pictures. There’s a bonus slideshow at the end.

  1. I went out at the tail end of a snowy day to take some pictures. This was a sign I saw. I liked the colours and a bit of the ice hanging down from the light.
picture of a sign with a light beside it. The light has a metal shade and a bit of snow on the top and some icicles hanging down on the side.   The sign is mostly orange in the background, a finger pointing down about 45 degrees to the left.  As you move to the right of the finger, you see the hand and the forearm is covered by a black jacket. The word Vintage in orange red is printed on jacket.
I looked up and saw this sign pointing at me.

2. Hooray for snow plows. There was another one, the typical big truck with a blade. But I like this one because I don’t see them that much. I had no idea Volvo make these things.

picture of a yellow snow plow manufactured by Volvo.  It's probably an earth mover / bulldozer.

3. It’s a bit abstract. It’s the shape of a Chinese Lantern. Because it’s dark, we can only see the parts of it. But I like the splashes of red against the night sky.

Large wooden display of a Chinese lantern frame painted in red at night.  The background is mostly black. There several red dots from traffic lights and also a reflection of red from the traffic light against the wall.

4. Some more night stuff from the same spot. That’s the CN Tower in the background.

A red pole with decorative spiral  patterns lit from underneath against the black sky. The CN Tower is in the background as are traffic lights.

It’s kinda cold here and I miss flowers. I dug up some of my Cherry Blossoms pictures and made a slide show. It’s quick and easy using Apple’s Photo software. The music was included with the program. I hope you like it.

If You Leave

He was the first guy I was intimate with. We met at high school. It started out as a friendship. But continued to be a lot more than that. Ultimately I didn’t want it to continue because it didn’t feel right anymore. I had just started work and then got transferred to another job with shift work. I think he had a job outside the city. So it ended quite abruptly. We got in touch once after that. We chatted a bit but I knew we didn’t have anything in common anymore. I had grown a lot more confident about myself.

Occasionally I would look him up online, maybe once every couple of years. Late last year, I had this sudden urge to look him up. It was odd, as if I was being pushed to do so. So I did and found his obituary. He had already passed away months ago. I read about the people he touched and the loss they felt. It looked like he was married or had a common law partner.

I felt a bit sad. I didn’t have any emotional attachments to him and had long moved on. But maybe there were some buried emotions (I could be a long term project for some counselor).

You know what’s also weird? Around Christmas, I suddenly thought of an ex colleague. I hadn’t connected with him for a couple of years. We had a great working relationship. After I left, we would email each other every so often. I wondered if he was still working. I looked up on his name on Google and saw his LinkedIn in the results. Just below his LinkedIn was his obituary. It was over a year old. I remember all those long, hard hours he put on the deals we worked on. We both respected each other’s views and perspectives and kept things fun.

It’s just bizarre. Maybe people are trying to reach out to let me know they’ve left. I don’t know. As OMD once sang, “We always had time on our side, now it’s fading fast.”

No Veggies Tonight

I driving home when I saw two mounted police riding side by side. It was a one lane street so I moved a bit to the left to give the two horses lots of room. Once I passed them, the traffic stopped for a red light. As I waited, the two horses walked past on my right. They both had the colour of dark coffee and were just big and magnificent. Their coat was almost glistened. The nose of the horse closest to me flared a bit when it walked by. I looked at its bridle and wondered if it was uncomfortable.

As the horses walked past my bumper, the one closest to me raised its tail slightly. I guess it just wanted to show off. But that was not the reason. To my amazement and horror, the horse started to poop. There were lots of large, brownish green chunks the size of a football being pushed out of its uhmm you know what. Part of my brain was fascinated and the other part was just grossed out. I finally turned away.

The light turned green, I drove off and passed the horses again. This time, I didn’t look at them. A few more turns and I was home. During the evening, J texted me. I text back telling him I almost threw up driving home during the afternoon. He was of course alarmed. I described what happened. Instead of sympathy, I just got a scolding for worrying him. It was already 8PM and I told him I’m still grossed out and haven’t had dinner yet. That still didn’t earn any sympathy points.

When I finally had dinner, I left my broccoli in the fridge. I just couldn’t eat any greens tonight. Today was a rough day for this city boy.

Companions at Night

On some nights when I can’t sleep, I head to my desk in the living room. I usually take a quick peek out the blinds on my way to the desk. The quiet, peaceful street is a contrast to my hyperactive brain. Sometimes a car or a streetcar will go by. Sometimes even in the week hours of the morning, there are people on it. I wonder if they are going home, heading to work or simply riding the streetcar to stay warm.

A couple of weeks ago, when I looked out the window, I saw a silhouette of a person on the ground floor patio of the condo across the street. He looked like he was crouching down by the window. I moved to another window to get a better view. The condo usually has their street lights on but I guess they turn it off late at night. As my eyes adjusted to the dark, I saw two people sitting on the patio chairs. They seemed to be talking to each other. It wasn’t a cold night, the temperatures were above freezing. Maybe they couldn’t sleep and needed a smoke. As I was pondering why they were outside, they both turned their heads. I stepped back from the blinds. The lights in my unit were on and they could see me.

The next night, my insomnia was still keeping me company. I looked out the window again and they were out there. I didn’t linger by the window this time. Now that the nights are a bit colder, I don’t see them out anymore. It’s nice to know that there are other creatures of the night.

I try not to walk around too much at night otherwise my neighbours might hear me. I could pace the hallways in my building. But I know someone will notice me and think I’m a bit odd. I’d rather keep that secret here. This past couple of weeks have not been good sleepwise. Some nights, I go to sleep when people start to wake up. It gets tiring some days.

I wish this pandemic will end soon. My guess is I won’t get vaccinated until late fall. I’m starting to see some medical professionals warning people to switch to the premium masks (N95 or equivalent). The concern is that the B117 strain of the virus is even more contagious. All this is just worrisome.

Stay safe everyone.

It’s Only Words and Words Are All I Have

I’ve come to appreciate how difficult it is to write effectively. When I was a student, my essays were plagued with grammar errors. The only thing that saved me was the content. Writing was a chore. In my previous job, I reviewed a lot of sales proposals. I also wrote a lot of reports and learned to keep them concise. Around this time, I started to blog.

Blogging and the writing I did at work started to help me write better. When my first blog started to gain more followers, one of them sent me his school assignment and asked if I could proofread it. I replied I would and asked why he chose me. He said he liked the way I wrote (which inflated my ego). But I chuckled when he added that he had also asked another blogger first but that guy didn’t respond. I read his paper, made some suggestions and sent it back to him. I never heard from him for weeks. I finally sent him a message. He said he got an A. That was the only time he interacted with me.

Another Xangan asked if I could provide feedback on 2 or 3 part series he wanted to post. We had already developed a friendship and years later, I finally met up with him. His grammar and writing was excellent. I only added a couple of questions to see if he wanted to expand on a point he had written or maybe cut back on another one. The only thing that caught my eye was a sentence that reference the grade he was in. I commented that he had readers in other parts of the world like Hong Kong which doesn’t use grade but use form. I suggested he add his age which he did.

At work, I gained enough experience to review large sales deals which were usually RFP (Request for Proposal) responses. It wasn’t my responsibility to proofread them. But I started pointing out typos, basic grammar mistakes, run on sentences and awkwardly worded sentences. Sometimes I would flag sentences such as this one. “Phase 1 is a prerequisite to Phase 2. Phase 1 needs to be completed before we can begin Phase 2.” I crossed out the second sentence and explained that we already stated that with the word “prerequisite.”

One time, I caught a swear word once. Someone misspelled “shift”. It got a chuckle from the sales lead during our review. I was so tempted to let it go. Another time, we used both the formal corporate name of a client and also their corporate brand name in our proposal. I told the sales rep to determine which one he wants to use and stick to it. A couple of things helped me during this time. I started consulting style guides and read a book called “On Writing Well” by William Zinsser. It’s one of the best books I’ve come across on writing. I’ve reread it several times already.

Reviewing my own work is more difficult. I have two types of entries. The first is an entry that I will write without a lot of editing. It’s whatever comes to mind. I do a quick check and hit the publish button. It’s like a quick chat with the reader. It’s informal and a bit raw.

The second type is a more pensive entry. This is more of a deeper conversation with the reader. I’ll check for length. If it feels too long, I’ll start to cut stuff out. Does this sentence or paragraph support what I’m trying to say? Did I use the right words. I’ll also see if it flows in a logical order. Sometimes I will pause for a day or two and come back to it. I’m always surprised what I can catch afterwards. Grammar rules are not easy for me. There’s a level of precision and understanding that I haven’t mastered yet.

I’ve also started to read Dreyer’s English by Benjamin Dreyer. He is a vice president, executive managing editor and copy chief at Random House. It’s a book on grammar and writing. There’s a fair bit of humour in his writing which makes it more entertaining to read. My younger self would not have believed that I would one day enjoy wordsmithing. I enjoy the challenge of writing better and am curious to see where this is going to lead me.

Photos

Writing can take so much time. So here’s some photos that I took recently.

One of my orchids decided to finally bloom. It’s the smallest that I have and maybe after this bloom is over, I’ll move it to a bigger pot.

close up shot of mostly purple orchids with some whites and yellows at the center.
orchids

Just experimenting around with my lens. I saw these lights on bush and shot it out of focus.

little circles of lights in blues, purples, greens, yellows and oranges.  Out of focus lights.
bokeh

Some of the Christmas lights I saw yesterday night.

Christmas lights (predominately in yellowish white) and wreaths with red ribbons decorate the small front lawn of a house.  There's also a tree covered with lights, a deer, an angel with flute, some gift boxes and a manger.

An insomniac’s brain … we’re open 24 hrs.

Open 24 hours sign in small orange bubs.  The caption is "an insomniac's brain".
Insomniac’s Brain

What doctors don’t tell us.

Light sign in a storefront that says "Ice Cream Solves Everything".  The background has some warm orange lights.  The caption reads "what doctors don't tell us"
For Thomas

Pictures

I got a bit wet walking around taking this picture. I’ve been trying to learn how to take pictures at night. I like how the light reflects of the wet pavement. I don’t really like walking around in the rain / snow. But this year I got a new Goretex shell and it keeps me dry.

Night time shot of streetcar with headlights reflecting on the wet pavement.  In the background, there are lights from stores being reflected on the wet pavement.
Streetcar at Night

My orchids are blooming! It’s as if Zakiah came by and whispered words of encouragement to each of my orchids. Here are a couple of pics of one of them.

close up picture of an orchid.
close up of an orchid flower.

This was one of those pictures I took on the walk I mentioned in a previous entry. I love how the colours of the lights are reflected on the ice. This is the rink / water pond in front of our city hall.

night time shot of the ice rink at Nathan Phillips Square.  The Toronto sign is in 2 shades of light blue.  There is also a red maple leaf sign.  The colours from these signs are reflected on the ice.  There are also some skaters which are silhouetted.

This picture is a bit of an experiment. I took my 50mm f1.8 lens, turned it around and took some shots. I held it against the camera and moved back and forth slowly to focus. It behaves like a macro lens! But it’s a very shallow depth of field so it’s really tricky. I also played around with the settings on Lightroom to intensify the colours.

Macro shot of a flower, the centre (pistil?) is yellow and the picture has some details.  The petal is a reddish pink colour and slightly blurred.

That’s it for now. I hope you like them. One style I want to get a lot more comfortable is street photography. But it’s not easy pointing my camera at someone and taking a picture.

While not related to photography, a reader left a comment some time ago. This person has followed my blog since the Xanga days. But I have no idea who this person is. The user id isn’t linked to a blog on WordPress. I like that anyone can comment on my blog. The id he used is a well known camera manufacturer and also the same name as a famous mountain. So if you’re that person, please tell me a bit about yourself. I’m curious who you are. If you wish to remain anonymous, that’s fine too. I can relate to that. I just want to thank you following my blog for so long.

Snippets

1. So the other night, I was working on my laptop. I only had my desk lamp on and the rest of my unit was dark. I heard a very distinct “hello” from somewhere behind me. I held my breath. I didn’t hear anything else. I turned around and didn’t see anything. Nothing was moving. Weird.

2. My current cell phone is an iPhone 5s from 2013. It’s probably considered pretty old. It only has 16 GB of memory. I don’t store a lot of music or photos on my phone. It still works and Apple still provides updates (though it’s not on the latest iOS). I’ve been thinking about buying a new one but they are so pricey. I can’t imagine walking around with a phone that costs $1,000. I’ll probably keep this one until it stops working.

3. I have an old car too. It’s the same story as my phone except the car is a lot older. Geez… I have so many old stuff. Hmm – all my appliances are getting up in age too.

4. Christmas was a solo affair. I texted my siblings and friends at various time during the day. I was going to drop off some food for my sis. But she hasn’t been feeling well lately and she said she was going to sleep early. I watched a bit of TV during the day. Eventually I decided to get some fresh air and went out for a walk (about 7k). I dragged my camera long to take some pictures. After I got home, I heated up some leftovers and that was my Christmas dinner. It didn’t seem weird at all.

5. A few months after my dad passed away, my sister (who lives in the house), changed the internet / cable supplier. The new package she got included a home alarm system. A technician came and installed motion sensors in the living room, dining room and hallway. All the doors were also monitored. She felt safer knowing the house was monitored when she was at work and at night when she was sleeping.

One day she was going through the logs and saw that the living room motion sensor had detected motion during the night but didn’t trigger the alarm. So she called to check what was going on. The help desk was able to check the battery level remotely and that was fine. The guy asked my sister if she had pets. Nope. Does she have an aquarium? Nope. Are there curtains near a vent or a fan? Nope. He wasn’t able to explain what it was My sister eventually called me and told me the whole story. She said it doesn’t happen every night but it’s frequent. And it only happens at night, usually between 2 AM and 4 AM.

I remembered that my dad would come out at night at that time to use the washroom, and check the front door. If he couldn’t sleep, he would just sit at his reclining chair in the living room and watch TV or read. This was part of his night time routine. He always joked that he woke up early because in his teens, he worked at a bakery and had to be up very early.

But I told my sister not to worry. Sometimes the sensors are just too sensitive. Eventually those messages faded away and as far as I know, my sister hasn’t been checking the logs.