My “paranormal” experiences

I don't tend to believe in paranormal stuff (not for lack of desire, but because I hate vague, nebulous so-called “proof” of them ¬_¬). That said, there have been a few times when I experienced something strange.

  • One night back in the early 90’s (or maybe mid-to-late 80’s 🤔), when we lived in an apartment building, we noticed some strange lights in the sky. There were three white lights circling each other about 100 feet in the air. My mother, sister, and I stood on the balcony looking around and theorizing what it could be. Of course we included aliens, but also tried to figure out other options. We were running out of ideas for explanations until one of us (I don't remember which one) remembered that there was a new Ikea across the road and they were having a grand-opening soon. Sure enough, the lights were just Ikea's grand-opening spotlights reflecting off a cloud layer. Oh well, maybe next time. 👽

  • In the summer of 1997, I came over to London to register for university. While we were waiting for the person from student-housing to return from lunch so that I could register to get a dorm-room, a guy came by to post a listing for a place for rent for students. My mother asked him about it and we went to check it out. It was great and the rent was low, so we ended up signing a lease that would start in October.

    In September, I moved into a dorm-room for my first year of university and a month later, my mother and sister moved into the town-house. I went there now and then to help clean and prepare the place as well as to do laundry and get food, but I spent most of my time in the dorm. In April, I moved out of the dorm and into the town-house. It was weird because before the dorm, I lived with my family in the town-house in Burlington, this new place didn't feel like home to me, it felt like my mother and sister's place. Regardless, I moved into my room and the first night was the strangest of all.

    That first night, I went to bed in my room, with my bed directly in front of the door, so I had a straight line of sight and sound to the hall outside. I lay there waiting to fall asleep for a while when I noticed some creaking. Creaking is a pretty normal sound in most houses with wood expanding and contracting on its own. The difference is that this creaking wasn't random, it had a distinct pattern. I laid there, listening carefully to the creaks, specifically noticing that each subsequent creak was further and further down the stairs. Moreover, there was at least half a dozen of them. If the creaks were in random locations or if there were only two or three, that would be one thing, but for there to be that many creaks, consistently further down the stairs was suspicious and statistically unlikely.

    This was in April of 1998, several months before we got the cats, so it was not them. And it was not my mother or sister either because they were both in their beds. To this day, I cannot figure out a rational explanation for that experience. (Also, over the 14 years we lived in there, there were other instances of strange things, mostly involving numerous electronic devices dying, some of which were attributable to bad household wiring, but most of which were not.) 👻

  • (I'm sure there have been a few more but I can't think of them right now; I'll add them as I remember them.)

My public school was more impressive than my private school

I've been to several schools in my life (grades 1-4: King's Road elementary, 5-6: Glenview elementary, 7-8: Maplehurst middle, 9-10: Aldershot secondary, 11-12+OAC: Assumption catholic). Almost all of them were public schools, but the catholic school was semi-private school (it wasn't private, but it wasn't a government school either). Surprisingly enough, the public high-school was even better than the private one.

Assumption was a great school; it was newish, clean, and had some more recent technology. Most importantly, as the principal said, because it was semi-private, they don't have to take any students, so everyone has to be on their best behavior. Because of this, the staff and students were very nice and it went a long way to helping to heal the years of trauma I endured in public school and by the last year, my social-anxiety disorder had improved a lot.

While Assumption had the best people, it didn't have the best facilities. That honor goes to the public school Aldershot. It may have been older and had terrible staff and students, but the facilities were very impressive for a public school:

  • It had its own swimming pool (in its own wing). That alone puts it ahead of a lot of schools. When I was at Glenview elementary, we even went to Aldershot a few times to swim.
  • Most schools have a "cafegymatorium", but Aldershot had a dedicated auditorium which was like a movie-theater, and not those tiny new mini-theaters they have today, but the classic large ones with many rows of cushioned seats. I still remember my mother meeting my English teacher there during a parent-teacher meeting.
  • There was a large gymnasium. Most school gyms have a curtain that can cut it into two smaller ones, but the one at Aldershot was so large that it could be cut into three gyms.
  • A lot of schools have a shop and technology lab, but Aldershot had a whole technology wing which included a separate wood-shop, metal-shop, automotive-shop, full electronics-lab, computer-lab, and a tech-lab which duplicated some functionality by containing two separate banks of computers (Amigas for things like Deluxe Paint and Windows PCs for things like CAD and Corel Draw), an electronics lab, a full dark-room, and a video-lab with equipment like Video-Toaster. Then upstairs, there were two more computer labs, one with C64s, and another with IBMs. Remembering all of these blows my mind. 🤯 (Sadly, I only ever used the wood-shop, the big tech-lab, and the IBM lab. One of my few regrets is not getting a chance to take the electronics course in school.)
  • There was a large two-story library. Two-story libraries are usually for post-secondary and private schools; you don't see them as often in public high-schools. I spent a lot of time in the library reading, especially lunch and breaks.
  • Aldershot had a big, full-function art room. Most high-schools have art rooms that provide most functions, but Aldershot's was even more stocked with everything from all the supplies we could need (though we still had to buy some things like an art kit and bag, and stuff ¬_¬), and a large kiln.
  • There were actually no less than two science labs. I don't remember them too well, and when I think of science-class in Aldershot, I usually end up thinking of things from Maplehurst middle-school or Assumption, but I'm sure there were two science labs, one in the middle of the school, and the other out at the end of one of the school's several wings, beneath the big statue on the outside wall (one time we had to evacuate that lab because of a release of a chemical or smoke or something and had to stand outside until it was clear).

I can't remember much else of Aldershot's facilities; other classes like French, English, math, geography and history were in pretty standard classrooms. I suppose the only thing that might have been outstanding about those might be the equipment (I recall using a Texas-Instruments graphing calculator once), but those kinds of classes don't really need anything fancy. Regardless, the facilities of that public school put a lot of even private schools to shame, let alone other public schools. The staff and students may not have been great, but the school itself was amazing.

Two and half stories of campus tours

Since they were so spread out (and I was young at the time), I didn't notice them, but I've actually been on three campus tours during my school life.

  1. My first campus tour was in early 1989 when I was in sixth grade, my last year of elementary-school. We walked down the street from Glenview to Maplehurst to see the middle-school we'd be going to in several months. Naturally, I felt overwhelmed and nervous walking around amongst those scary older kids. (This is pretty much constant throughout childhood; everybody seems older and intimidating.) The only thing I remember form this tour was when—for some reason—the last thing they showed us was the staff-room. The tour-guide took a long foam thing out of the top-shelf of a closet there and explained that it was a gift from a former student who now works in Hollywood and that the foam thing was a prop from the 1986 remake of The Fly (it looked like one of the creature's arms/legs, but it was unpainted, so it was probably a spare or defect or something).
  2. The next campus tour I took was just two years later when we went (walked?) up the street from Maplehurst to Aldershot to see the high-school we'd be going to in a few months. Again, walking the halls of the high-school and seeing the big, old pubescent near-adults was quite daunting. I'm sure we got to see the (shockingly impressive, for a public school) facilities, but there are only two things I remember from it:

    • We walked towards the oversized gym down the phys-ed wing hallway whose walls were adorned with awards and photos. The tour-guide stopped at one of the photos (I think it may have been black-and-white), of a kneeling student with a football, wearing a football uniform (I swear he was wearing one of those old-fashion leather helmets 🤔). The guide explained that the photo was of former-student Jim Carey. Yes, the actor. Years later, I tried to look it up, and he did indeed attend Aldershot. If I ever meet him, I have something to discuss. 😀
    • After the tour was over and we returned to Maplehurst, somehow I got split-up from our group and remained behind at Aldershot. It's been many, many years, but I vaguely recall staying behind for a reason; I think was supposed discuss or ask something of someone at the high-school (I do sort of recall a wait of some sort for the teacher to be free). Anyway, I remember being all alone down in the music wing which felt like an unfinished basement with exposed pipes and feeling nervous and out of my element. I also recall walking down the hall, towards the school-proper and seeing the portraits of various composers hanging from the roof.

    I also recall taking a bus to Central, but almost the only thing I remember about that (other than the dark, unlit hallways) was worrying that a girl from my class that I liked was going there while I was going to Aldershot. 😞

  3. My final campus tour was spring of 1996, in my last year of high-school. (When I was in high-school, we had an extra year after 12th grade called OAC which was discontinued a couple of years later.) There were no universities in Burlington, let alone within walking distance, so we took a bus. Once again, I had a crush on a (different) girl in my class, but going to three different cities to see universities was still exciting. I brought my (non-Sony) walk-man with me along with several tapes and listened to Bryan Adams, Green Day, and a bunch of comedy routines and songs. We went to see three universities (though for the life of me, I can only remember two). On the way, we stopped at a couple of other high-schools to pick up more students for the tours. Not surprisingly, being among all of those literal adults was really something.

    1. First, we went to Guelph to visit the University of Guelph (¬_¬). I only vaguely remember this (maybe I should look it up on Google Maps to jog my memory). I do remember seeing the large, three-story library, and especially the canon in the grass that I think they said is occasionally fired. 😕 I also remember sitting on some stairs in a large foyer/courtyard/mezzanine type of area of a building while we waited for something or other.
    2. Next, we to London to see King's College (which is a subsidiary of UWO). We saw a few (dark, empty) rooms and stopped in at the cafeteria where we were given lunch. I don't remember much else, but then, King's is only a single building (including the dorm). We then went to the main campus of UWO to see the university-proper. (Maybe the "three" places we saw included King's as a separate one. 🤔) We also saw an off-campus student-residence (I think it was just a building that students often rented 😕). I recall again sitting on stairs waiting, but this one was in the Social-Science building (which I became fairly familiar with later). We also went upstairs in the Social-Science building for some sort of administrative stuff (instead of the Admin-building 🤨). We saw the pool in the Thompson Recreation & Athletic Center at the (then-) edge of campus. We were told to split up into a few groups and explore things of relevance to ourselves. We probably saw a few buildings and facilities, but the thing I remember the best was Alumni Hall because our bus was stopped in front of it and when we were ready to leave, I had to go to the bathroom, as did Rebecca (who happened to be the girl I liked). We were told there's a bathroom in Alumni Hall and we ducked in to go quickly before heading home. Alumni has a double-door in the middle of the edifice that opens to a hallway that goes to the left and right. We went to the left and saw a sign for the girl's bathroom. She went in and I had to go to the other side of the building to get to the boy's bathroom. (Stupid symmetry. 😒) Anyway, we got back to the bus to head home. Later on, every time I was in Alumni, I thought of the bathrooms. 😀

    We dropped off the other students at their respective high-schools and headed back to our own.

The strange thing is that each time I went to the new school, I quickly got accustomed to it and forgot about the tour and stopped thinking of it as the place we went to a few months earlier. Weird. 🤨 I applied to Guelph, Waterloo, and Western and ended up going to Western, and the rest is history.

(In case you're wondering why it's only two and half stories, it's because the first two had something that could be interesting to other people—the prop and Jim Carey—but the last one is only of interest to myself—unless others find my urinary nostalgia interesting.)

One big act, four bigger effects

I just called Distributel to sign up for services and it was a massive objective in my life.

Three weeks ago, the Rogers bill arrived. Apparently Rogers thinks contracts are one-way, whereby the customer has to pay a huge early-cancellation fee, while Rogers is free to keep raising the prices, so I was not surprised that it had gone up yet again. What I was surprised was how much they jacked up the price: $60. The previous rate was already too high, but the higher rate is outright infeasible; I just can't afford to give an extra $60 every month (especially for subpar services, one of which is not used at all), and certainly not to Rogers of all companies. 🤮

For the past three weeks, I've researched alternative providers and compiled a list. Unfortunately for the most part, all the extra (bs) upfront fees I'd have to pay (installation, activation, etc.) would completely destroy any savings that the monthly bill would provide. I'd have to be a customer for two years before simply breaking even, let alone saving any money. 😒

Almost two weeks ago, I saw a Distributel ad that seemed too good to be true. It said they'd provide TV, Internet, and home-phone (I still have no compelling use for a mobile-phone) for less than what Rogers charges, and it includes hardware rental and no fees. I checked their site, but there was nothing I could do from there and had to call. Any other person would have called immediately, but not me, no, between my social-anxiety disorder, avoidant-personality disorder, paranoia, and other neuroses, I put it off until literally the last day (before the Rogers bill was due). Thankfully, I was able to finish everything I was doing today during the day, and the sun came out for a peek to lift my spirits and bolster me, and I made the call.

After about 30 minutes, I had officially signed up for all of the services, in my name, for less money, and Distributel will take care of cancelling the Rogers services. This was huge. In fact, it was a big deal for five reasons:

  • This was the first time I signed up for anything in my own name. The Rogers account was still in my mother's name and after she died, between my social-anxiety disorder and my extreme discomfort with change, it was easier to just keep paying the bills instead of calling to cancel and sign up for myself. Signing your name to a contract is a major life milestone, and this was my first time doing that (technically, it's not; I signed up for a credit card in my first year in university, and had a bank account and jobs, and stuff, but still, this was a big step).
  • In order to make this change, I had to push myself hard and overcome my social-anxiety disorder and avoidant-personality disorder enough to make the call. I did the usual tricks of breathing exercises, a bit of physical activity, and the like, and the sun certainly helped. Too bad this sort of thing only works sometimes and only for brief things like this; it's not helpful for ongoing day-to-day struggles.
  • By signing up for the services in my own name, I took a step to moving forward (I hate the phrase "moving on") with my life after my mother died. It's been more than 1.5 years, but it's still hard. It goes up and down, but I feel that this step is significant and hope it will help.
  • And of course, there's the money. The new service is cheaper than what Rogers was charging even before they jacked up the price, so I might actually be able to have a food budget again. ¬_¬

I'm sure a lot of people (most even) would think little of this; they'd snigger at extolling triumph over what they would consider to be a trifling affair because it would be a trivial task for them, but that just shows how much of an ordeal it is and how much of an obstacle even such a banal errand as this can be for some.

Detractors aside, today was a big day for me. Last week was a big day as well.

Now, aside from the perpetual issues with this damn co-op, the only big (read massive) step I need to take is to find someone so that I don't die alone. I think I am more than half-way to that goal, but the next step I need to take towards it is a biggie and I have been putting it off for over a week. Hopefully this victory will bolster me enough to take a chance…

Not so happy thanks-birthday 😒

In a few minutes, I turn 40. Regardless of any 40 is the new 30 nonsense that people might say, the truth is that 40 is still 40, it’s still middle-aged and it’s still officially old. In a few minutes, my odds of finding someone plummet and my odds of dying alone skyrocket. There’s nothing happy about this birthday.

And to make things worse, to really rub it in and add insult to injury, this year, my birthday falls on thanksgiving. ¬_¬ What’s to be thankful for? My mother is dead. My cats are dead. The car is dead. There’s plenty of other problems. And I’m turning 40 all alone. Gee, thanks sooo much. 🙄

Well, it’s almost time. There’s just two minutes left. I’m not going to watch the clock roll over like new-year’s eve. I’m going to watch tonight’s TV shows and hope it hooks me enough to distract me and make me forget for a bit…

Orange Pi Lite – Computers have gotten really small

I recently got an Orange Pi Lite and after some expected fighting with Linux, Raspbian, and ARM, I got it running as a completely self-contained web-server and it can now host my site(s) and blogs. It’s not fast enough and does not have enough memory to server lots of people at a time, but hopefully by the time that is needed, I’ll have upgraded.

I still find it amazing that a tiny credit-card–sized board with only a single (power) wire connected to it is now my web-server. (I actually leave another cable connected from the UART to the laptop so that I can run it headless but still control it without a monitor or input devices directly connected.)

Orange Pi Lite System
This tiny thing is a whole system
Orange Pit Web-server
This tiny thing hosts my sites and blogs

Squirrels like Halloween too

In our household, we haven’t made a jack-o-lantern since we were children (and even then, only once or twice out of curiosity and not missing out on a tradition). We don’t like to make jack-o-lanterns because the idea of cutting up a pumpkin (which is food), letting it rot for a few weeks, then throwing it in the garbage is anathema to us.

We often forgo real pumpkins in general, instead favoring plastic or foam ones, but for the past few Halloweens we have gotten a real pumpkin, left it uncut, put it on the porch as decoration, then after Halloween turned it into a pumpkin pie (which I was surprised to learn a few years ago is awesome!).

Last year, the local squirrels took a couple of nibbles out of the pumpkin out of curiosity but left it alone. We cut a chunk out of the nibble areas and pied the rest.

This year, we got a few small pumpkins and put them on the porch as decoration. There were four or five little pumpkins of various shapes, sizes, and colors. It was pretty nice.

What is really amusing is that like last year, the squirrels took a couple of small bites out of the pumpkins, but unlike last year, they were not random bites; the squirrels apparently decided to make their own jack-o-lanterns.

Here’s a few of the pumpkins, and as you can see, one of them has not been touched, one has a sort of abstract looking miserable-ghost look to it, and one has a legitimately sinister look which is very amusing; too bad it doesn’t have a fang-y mouth, maybe the squirrels got bored and gave up. 🙂

A few small pumpkins, some of which have been turned into jack-o-lanterns by squirrels.

A small pumpkin with an abstract spooky look created by squirrels.

A small pumpkin that has been turned into a creepy looking jack-o-lantern by squirrels.

Rogers is literally killing me!

Rogers is almost certainly the single worst company on Earth (I welcome comparisons to other horrible companies like Google, Apple, and Microsoft).

Unfortunately 2013 has been worse than ever. This past year, Rogers has gone from being a horrible company to legitimately malicious and evil. They have both increased their incompetence drastically, and also made a purposeful and concerted effort to attack, abuse, and take advantage of customers.

Sadly, despite being emotions, stress and anxiety can indeed cause tangible, physical health damages. I have always found that bizarre that thoughts and feelings can hurt you, but I am experiencing it first hand. I have never been in such poor health in my entire life. Even though I’ve had a a lot of unpleasantness and stress and anxiety since finishing school and being dumped in the “real world” (almost all due to financial problems), and even though I went through a nasty bout of clinical depression in 2006 (which I only saw it for what it was several years later), I have never been too bad. However thanks to Rogers, this year my health has been going down the toilet.

Since Rogers began its pogrom against non-affluent customers, I have had a lot of health problems including but not limited to:

  • Blepharospasms (constant twitching of the—left—eyelid)
  • Palpitations (frequent heartbeat irregularities like skips and double-beats)
  • Chest pains and tightness
  • Blurry and tunnel vision
  • Dizziness
  • Excessive biting and chewing of my lips, tongue, and cheeks
  • Tremors of hands, torso, etc.
  • Stomach aches and ulcers
  • Headaches and migranes
  • Excessive picking and tearing of my fingers and cuticles
  • Long-lasting (over a month) wet, constructive cough and noises when breathing

It’s only a matter of time until the stress and anxiety of being a Rogers customer causes something fatal. Unfortunately the Canadian telecom industry is essentially a monopoly, so there are no decent alternatives which leaves us stuck with Rogers for a while. (Rogers is discontinuing their analog cable TV service which is the one and only reason to stay with them. Once they’ve removed their only advantage, we have absolutely no reason to stay with them and while I have heard plenty of complaints about Bell—customers call them BHell—there is nothing worst than Rogers, so even Bell’s awfulness would be a welcome change.)

Rogers is literally killing me. I just wish I had a way to fight back, but it’s hard to kill a company (though I can hope that the greedy, selfish people who make decisions and profit from customer-abuse can get cancer or AIDS or something).

Countdown to Rogers-Liberation Day!

I am abso-freaking-lutely sick and tired of Rogers (I’ve been accumulating an article detailing their problems for a while now, and it has grown quite massive). They are quite literally, and provably the worst provider in the world! They continually raise their prices every single, bloody month, and constantly cut and reduce the service. On top of that, their customer service is horrendous (the have absolutely no respect for customers who they feel are not always right; quite the contrary, they believe the customer is always wrong). And to add insult to injury, they constantly make mistakes and frequently add fraudulent charges to the bill, and their web site never works so that you cannot even check your account.

Rogers is trash, plain and simple. They are worthless and completely useless. We are leaving Rogers.

The problem is that there is almost zero choice in Canada. While there are a few mobile-phone providers, there are next to no TV/Internet/landline providers in the country, and the selection gets even worse if you don’t live in one of the larger metropolitan cities. As such, there is no competition (which is what allows Rogers to continue their abusive rape of customers).

I have heard plenty of bad things about Bell, but at this point, the abuse we have received from Rogers has been so egregious, that we can’t help but welcome abuse from someone else because they simply cannot be as bad as Rogers.

Unfortunately, Bell cannot provide us with cable television. We have to use satellite which means no choice but to go digital. Digital television is just awful and replete with downsides as compared to analog. I intend to write an article expounding on this later, but leaving Rogers leaves us with no choice but to switch to digital television.

Fortunately, Bell has been installing FTTH in our area this summer. They say that it should be ready by the fall, so once it is done, we will dump Rogers like the syphilitic whore it is and switch to Bell Fibe TV. It will be only slightly cheaper, but will provide a lot better service.

As for Internet and home-phone, we will not be going with Bell, they are just too expensive for no reason. Instead, we will be using Teksavvy because they offer a home phone with a free calling feature (Rogers offers none) for less than half the price. They also offer a fast Internet connection with 5x the monthly bandwidth cap that Rogers does, but for less money. In addition, they don’t even count bandwidth during the night; that’s unlimited!

We would have to be stark raving mad to stay with Rogers even one second longer than necessary. In fact, we should have dumped them a long time ago, but there is just no choice or selection here.

The only concern is that Rogers might (read probably will) try to hit us with an early cancellation fee because the two or three-year contract we made for a bundle package with them over the phone has not expired yet. This is not really a concern though because they can take their contract and shove deep in the bowels of their hellish nether regions. They have absolutely no legal grounds to sue us over breach of contract. First of all, they cannot produce a contract because it was over the phone and even if they do actually record the phone calls, they can’t produce anything because they cannot keep their “crap” straight, hence the constant errors in the bills. I highly doubt that their phone records are proper and consistent enough for them to be able to pull a specific call from a couple of years ago. More importantly, they breached the contract first. We made a deal over the phone that we would pay a specific price for a specific level of service for a specific price. That is a contract. However they have on countless occasions raised the price and reduced the service. That is a breach. We are by no means obligated to continue to honor the contract after they have voided it. If anything, we should be able to sue Rogers for breach of contract (and anyone who is in a similar position and has the legal resources to do so should). We don’t mind if Rogers takes us to small-claims court to sue over early cancellation; they most definitely won’t win. Therefore, the only real concern is that they might file some complaint with credit agencies to hurt our credit rating. Of course if they do that, we will take them to court, sue them for damages and have the credit reverted. It would be a slightly inconvenient, but would also be an interesting experience (hey, it might even be easy enough that we can sue the other people who have wronged us but ignored because suing seemed like a big deal).

So here we are. We are now counting down to when we can leave Rogers once and for all. Of course even when we are finally Rogers-free, I suspect that we will continue to see their damn commercials and ads all over the place. They are inescapable. Canadians really need to stand up and start an “Arab Spring” against providers here to take down Rogers and force the creation of competition and good, proper, fair telecommunications providers.