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.

Donkey Kong 64

Abstract

I don’t usually write reviews—though my strong opinions and OCD really compel me to do so more often—but I feel like Donkey Kong 64 really needs one.

Donkey Kong 64 is the main Donkey Kong game for the Nintendo 64 and follows the SNES line of Donkey Kong Country games, albeit in 3D. It’s a pretty good game, but it has it’s issues.

Pros

DK64 has some really good parts:

  • A lot of gameplay.

    DK64 has a lot of gameplay in various ways. Unlike some games, you definitely feel like you get your money’s worth. It has the main storyline with the overarching theme (beat K.Rool by running around and reaching goals), but it also has quite a lot of other sub-goals and mini-games. There’s also a lot of stuff to collect, weapons to use, and places to explore as well as different characters along with their special abilities, and even two animals to play as. If you are a 100%-gamer, there is definitely a lot of game available. You definitely do not feel ripped off with this game. (Actually, while I thought it would take a really long time to play through, I was surprised to achieve—near—100% in just two weeks, totaling ~65 hours of in-game time. Of course by then, I was already tired of it anyway.)

  • Familiarity

    Being a Donkey Kong game, it has a lot of similarity to other Donkey Kong games, so long-time fans will be able to jump right in and enjoy the things they liked about past games (though personally, I have not yet played the DKC games :-|). It is also very similar to Super Mario Bros. 64, so if you enjoyed that, then you get more like it. (It is also similar to the GameCube game Super Mario Sunshine, so if you have already played that, like I have, then you get that bonus as well.) In addition, it has a couple of levels of the original Donkey Kong arcade game as well as Jetpac, so you get a blast from the past in that way too.

  • Environment

    The tropical island environment is just lovely. The beautiful sun, sand, plants, and water is so alluring and inviting, it really makes me want to move to a tropical island. The same applies to Super Mario Sunshine which has a similar island with intoxicating beaches.

Cons

Unfortunately DK64 also has some really annoying problems (some of which are actually pros that are poorly implemented and result in aggravation):

  • Overwhelming

    While the amount of gameplay is a good thing, there is just so much of it, that it gets to be feel very cluttered. There are several characters, a bunch of locations, and countless items. Between the weapons (shooters and instruments), the regular and golden bananas, the regular and special coins, several types of mini-games, orange bombs and crystal coconuts, fairies, blueprints, numerous moves and combos, and so on and so on, it really feels overwhelming. This is made worse for those of us who want/need to get 100% completion in games. To some degree, you do become accustomed to most of it, but it still feels uncomfortable cluttered, constantly wondering if you got everything or missed anything.

  • Rip-off

    Similarity to other games can be a good thing, but DK64 takes it to a problematic extreme. There are (too) many places where it feels exactly like other games, especially Mario 64. There are several places like the slide races, the island, moves, etc. that are so similar to Mario 64, that it is almost as though they just copy-pasted them from the other game and merely changed the textures. The similarities are so strong, that several different walkthroughs have called them out. (In turn, Mario Sunshine may have been influenced DK64.)

  • Unwieldy

    Like many of the other early 3D games of the time (particularly Mario 64), the controls for both the character and the camera are frustratingly difficult to use and poorly implemented. Moving the character around is often a real chore due to the way the controls work. This is really annoying, especially when it makes it difficult if not impossible to accomplish some tasks. The camera certainly does not help either because whether it is automatic or “manual”, it is often in the wrong place, making things like flying through rings likewise difficult or impossible. The awkward camera also makes it difficult to see some things like balloons that would be easy to see in real life (just tilt your head), but require a concerted effort to see in the game (which of course requires your knowing it is there in the first place). The controls are bad enough that players may throw their controllers in frustration.

  • Bizarre Goals

    Most of the game was pretty straight-forward and there wasn’t too much confusion on what needed to be done. However, there were several places where something that needed to be done (like some of the gold-banana games) were absolutely not intuitive and would not occur to a player. Likewise, it was not obvious howto use the dirt-piles because the move required to expose them seemed like a generic attack move that had nothing to do with the dirt patches. Another example is how in one of the Splish Splash Salvage mini-games, the vines swing down in so that you can reach the coin above water only after you get the underwater ones. The second fight with Army-Dillo was frustrating because it was not clear that you should just keep pounding on him towards the end, rather it seemed more like you had to do something else like jump on him to fly out or something; this happens several times in the game where you end up over-thinking a task, expecting it to be more complicated and clever than it actually is.

  • Lanky

    Lanky Kong was just annoying. From his goofy persona to his, literally, lanky gait and awkward movements, he was annoying to use and provided no significant benefit and had no real point. At least Chunky was big and strong. 🙁

  • Too Hard

    Most of the game isn’t too bad. There are a few parts that are really challenging like the DK arcade (especially the second time), the double-car Minecart Mayhem mini-game, or some of the races. However, most of these are doable with a little (or a lot) of practice. Unfortunately at least one of the tasks is nigh on impossible, the aptly named “Beaver Bother!”. This mini-game requires herding a small group of Gnawty Beavers and getting them to fall down the hole in the center. Unfortunately this is effectively impossible because no amount of snapping at a single beaver will get them to fall in the hole; getting them to fall in requires getting them in a position where one is next to the hole and cannot move away because it is blocked by another beaver. Since there are only four beavers in the arena (five in the “Creepy Castle” versions), it is difficult to get them in the right position. Worse, if you fall in the hole, the game is over and you have to start over. With enough practice, it is possible to get four or five down there, but the game requires 12, and with a 60 second time limit (45 in the “Creepy Castle” versions), it is flat out impossible to do. Having even one of this mini-game is bad enough, but Rare actually put it in the game three times! What were they thinking‽ Did they do any playtesting at all‽ 😮

  • DK Rap

    The DK Rap that is performed in the opening sequence is almost, almost amusing, but it is painfully clear that it was written by non-rappers. Throughout the song, there are several places where it keeps pausing for a beat, resulting in a stuttering effect, as though they could not think of a longer word to use to have enough syllables to keep the rhythm smooth.

Summary

Overally, Donkey Kong 64 is a fun, engaging game but has a few issues that make it frustrating. You feel like you get your money’s worth, and if you play it fast enough, you should be able to get through it before the novelty wears off and the problems take over.

In just a couple of weeks, I got up to 98% (198 gold bananas, all regular bananas (and medals), both special coins, all crowns, all fairies, all keys, all blueprints, and all but 29 banana coins). The only thing left other than the final fight with K.Rool, is to get the remaining three gold bananas, but unfortunately they are the three “Beaver Bother!” bananas which means that I will likely be unable to get 100% in the foreseeable future—maybe it can be left as a quick “casual game” for later on. 🙁

I broke my freakin’ tooth!

Stupid Bulk Barn. My mother made a coffee-bundt cake last week. I cut off a slice and took a bite and bam! I bit into what seems to be a walnut shell. My front tooth twisted and broke. It hurt like hell! Stupid Bulk Barn; why the hell didn’t they properly clear out the shells from their crushed walnuts? It’s not even one little piece that slipped through; we checked some more and found lots of these shell pieces, some small, some large. Obviously they crushed a whole walnut and let it go through, shell and all. Dammit!

I Think I Tore My Shoulder

The tail-end of this television week is light. Last night had almost nothing on and tonight is equally light. I had big plans for these two nights and was hoping to catch up on some other things to reduce my large work-load.

Unfortunately something happened last night. I still have no idea what, but the result was a massive, horrible, shooting, throbbing pain in my right shoulder. At first, I barely noticed it and thought it was just a bit of momentary pain from sitting badly (for example, a pinched nerve in my arm caused by pressing it against the chair’s arm-“rest”). However the pain continued to shoot and throb and eventually I came to the realization that this was not a regular, fleeting pain, but something new, something serious.

Having no other choice, I just ignored it (as best I could). However, this quickly turned out to be nigh on impossible. The pain increased to the point that I could not ignore and became the overarching feature of the night. It eventually plateaued and leveled out (I guess it had reached the maximum possible), so again, having no recourse, I chose to just continue working and watching.

After a while, having a continuous ache in my shoulder was too much to bear and I could not concentrate on what I was doing anymore. I gave in and took the laptop up so that I could continue watching my Supernatural marathon in bed. However even that soon proved too much and I could not concentrate on the show. I noticed that every time I would doze off for a moment, I didn’t feel the pain (as much), so I shut down and tried to just sleep.

Sadly, sleep would not come. This is painfully typical; I doze off when trying to stay awake to watch something, but when I give up and turn it off, as the Persian saying says, “the sleep/drowsiness jumps from my head”. Sleep was made all the more elusive due to the pain.

I tried tossing and turning, pulling my arm, pushing it, twisting it, and generally looking for a position in which it would not hurt so that I could just hold it like that from then on. Unfortunately there was no such position; my shoulder always hurt. I found that moving it was the closest thing to a restful position; that is, whenever I moved it into a new position, it wouldn’t hurt as much during the move, but once it came to a stop, the pain would resurge. I even tried sleeping on my arm in an attempt to cut off the circulation and put it to sleep, but even that didn’t help (mostly because the pain was in my shoulder, not my arm).

Then I tried something else. (This part gets a little wonky because trying to describe such abstract things for which humans generally have no words is a Herculean task, even for wordsmiths.) I figured I would give mind-over-matter a shot and attempted to just think the pain away. Whenever it would shoot, I would try to mentally absorb the pain. This actually, nearly worked. It’s hard to describe it, but the normal pain had a sort of texture/color/vibration/feel to it. Whenever I would “meditate the pain”, it would change in a way and the closest that I can come to describing it is to say that it “turned blue”.

It really did dull the pain a little, but like trying to trim your waistline by holding in your stomach or strengthening the groin by doing Kegle excercises, it only works if you continually do it without stopping. This requires constantly focusing on the task and that is just impossible, especially when you are trying to sleep. I quickly found that it was untenable and I could not keep doing it for every throb every few seconds.

I did manage to fall asleep, but I kept waking up every 30 or so minutes. Over the seven hours, I woke up in pain at least a dozen times. They say that you don’t feel pain when you are asleep, but then why did I keep dreaming that I was in pain and had a broken arm and such? Every time I woke up, I would wish to fall asleep and stay asleep until the morning and for the night to be over so that I can go to the hospital.

The last time that I woke up was at 4:26am. The next time I dozed off, I stayed asleep until 7am when I had to get up to give my cat her insulin. At that point, I was afraid of getting up and moving my arm because it didn’t seem to be hurting. I hesitatingly got up and went about the day. While my shoulder did throb a slight bit and I could feel the pain gurgling under the surface, it never actually flared up again.

I always thought that I could take pain if I had to and could use my mind to ignore it if I had no other choice. I still think that if it is a pain due to external damage like a cut or stab, then I could. However an internal pain like this one is the kind that “aches to your bones” like nausea from a cold or “withdrawl pain”; and that is a pain that nobody can tolerate.

I still don’t know what happened or what caused it. My best guess is that it happened after taking the garbage out that night (about an hour before the pain started). This makes sense because I held the 20LB+ bag of used kitty-litter in my right hand, so it could have stretched my arm and torn a muscle or pinched a nerve or something. Of course I have taken out the garbage and carried heavy things countless times before (including last week), so why it would all of a sudden do so much damage is a mystery. I’m just glad that it got better so fast.