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February 12, 2016

Belated 2015 round-up

It may be 42 days into 2016, but I still haven't told you what my ten favourite things of 2015 were. Luckily you patiently waited.


10. eBook Distribution Platform

This should actually rank higher but I didn't want to bury the lede: I made a way for you to buy eBooks of Ghostcrime without making me walk to the post office! If you promise to check out the site, I promise to make the rest of these list items not directly self-promotional.

9. Rental cars

It's been a couple of years since I sold the ol' '96 Civic for parts, and I've been happier for it, but this summer I had reason to rent a vehicle for a week out of town. The Taurus was so new and technologically capable, I felt unworthy, but the driving was great. Though I was kind of concerned the rental agency would use the on-board computer to record my conversations and sell them in bulk to the highest bidder, so I tried not to sing along to the satellite radio too much.

8. Having a full-time coding job

Being self-employed was great and all, and the hours were fantastic. But there's nothing like the routine and paycheque of a proper job, especially one as fun as programming. Could have used a little more vacation, though — I was itching to take a Taurus out again. I suspect they put a chemical into the air freshener to make you love the car.

7. Satellite radio

I alluded to this a few items up, but I guess everyone's known about this for years? It's pretty cool how it shows you what song is playing.

6. Gin Blossoms

I guess everyone already knew about them too but I was listening to some 90's Alternative mixes at work (to, uh, get in the 'zone') and they were pretty much the highlight. I was also introduced to Cake's early output this way. They don't get their own entry.

5. Bigger apartment

Being more employed helped finance a larger apartment. It's got tons of space for animals to run around, and there isn't an angry neighbour downstairs who slams his closet door whenever I drop a piece of fruit. I've been eating a lot more avocados as a result.

4. Avocados

Creamy and neutral, these really bulked up my 2015 — and my salads — with delicious vegetable fat.

3. Small octopi

On the topic of food, I had a weird experience this year where I went to a decently upscale restaurant and ordered octopus. They were served whole, stood up on their curled legs like chess pieces, and as I ate them, I felt like an alien king. I'm not going to say the name of the restaurant. That's what Yelp is for.

2. Collab'ratin'

I somehow convinced the talented and hilarious Bruce Delo to do the cover for Ghostcrime in the middle of his own manic rush to complete the weighty KOBRA STALLION, Vol.1: Reptile Justice in the Stars. It's the first (or second, depending on what you count) book in the series he's doing which is already epic enough to have its own wiki (though it doesn't actually have a wiki yet). It was pretty great to watch his creative process, tons of fun to bounce ideas around, and his daunting project gave me valuable perspective on my own. Also, we shared a table at Hal-Con, and that was a blast.

1. Pickled eggs

Sorry, Bruce — pickled eggs edged you out this year. The tanginess of a pickle, with the nourishment of an egg? It can only be pickled eggs. I bought them whenever they were on sale. No way I'm paying $4.79 for six eggs and a jar of vinegar.


Well, there you go. I hope it was worth the wait. So are you going to check out my new site where you can buy DRM-free Ghostcrime eBooks? There's an easter egg where you can make it look like it's raining.






December 31, 2013

2013 Year In Review

Everybody's making lists of things about the year so I thought I would do the same. Except I really didn't listen to any new albums this year and the only movie I saw in theatres was Elysium, which was visually striking but fairly shallow otherwise. So it's just going to be a list of stuff I liked this year. It follows:

10. Wireless headphones

Playing loud music or games during the night is a favourite pastime of mine, but in order to be respectful to neighbours, I have for years tethered myself to my desk with headphones. In March this changed when I procured a set of comfortable Sony headphones! Now I can walk about, sit in armchairs, wash dishes, cry in the bedroom, etc. without ever having to stop listening to....

9. Bee Gees Greatest Hits

Say what you will about the Gibb brothers but it won't take this gem off the list. It's great background music for any sort of task, menial or otherwise, and the stretch from Jive Talking to Islands In the Stream is basically perfect. Sometimes I feel bad for broadcasting this wirelessly so often, but if anyone else is picking up the signal on a baby monitor or something, they've definitely stopped using it by now.

8. AdBlock for Chrome

After YouTube cranked their ads early this year and continued to do so, their site elicited more and more profanity from me, especially when I'd set up a playlist of British comedy to listen to while away from the computer. But the AdBlock extension removes all of the pre-video ads and also cleans up Facebook a great deal! Thanks AdBlock. You really should be higher on the list. I didn't plan this very well.

7. Propellor Porter

A beer so dark, so smooth, so flavourful — it can only be Propellor Porter. I wish I had some right now.

6. Wireless keyboard

For when I want to write but don't want to stare at a screen, I'll Bluetooth my Microsoft Wedge wireless keyboard to whatever device I have on me at the time, allowing me to write WHEREVER I WANT. The sensation of typing into nothingness is disorienting at first, and requires slightly more editing afterwards, but it's quite freeing. I can type on the bus, in dark rooms, in parks, etc. Which is definitely my thing.

5. Trail-running

More physically and mentally taxing than hiking, trail-running is my new favourite exercise. I am lucky I did not get seriously injured though because I was not ready for how intense it was.

4. Ruby programming language

Mm, almost no brackets to speak of, and unit testing is ridiculously easy. With its simple syntax and casually-typed variables, it feels like programming in crayon. One day someone will pay me to do it professionally but until then it's stodgy Java all the way.

3. Proper server administration with DigitalOcean

Before this year I'd never been with a web-hosting company that gave me root access to a server and let me install whatever I wanted. I didn't think any of them allowed that. But then during my Ruby exploration I started a server on DigitalOcean and lo, I had to install my own software stack! Exactly how I wanted! Most fun I've ever had, except for that time that I lived with a badger.

2. Standing desk

After a serendipitous discovery of some sturdy end-tables at a yard sale, I made a platform for my normal-sized desk and my life changed forever. Or at least my lower back did. Standing desk rules. But not as much as....

1. Craisins

That's right, the dried cranberry snack topped the list this year. I used to buy them in bulk from the grocery store, but then I discovered, in the same store, the make-your-own-candy-trail-mix station had them for half the price. Life-altering.






August 15, 2013

Grocery Shopping Tips

When I was young I remember some "smart shopper" tips that were drilled into me, making me feel smart. How was I to know that some of them were false?


  • "Never shop hungry" always reminded me to eat something before I went to the store. The premise is that if you're hungry, you'll buy all sorts of "impulse foods" like pizza pockets and English muffins instead of "good" foods like turnips. While I may be more cutthroat and focused when my stomach is growling, it does not rob me of all logic, so today I did an experiment, and shopped hungry. Although I almost passed out on the walk home, my bags were laden with quality food that I really wanted to eat, and as soon as I unpacked my groceries, I made a delicious salad, with cranberries and sunflower seeds from the bulk section.

  • "Always get milk from the back of the fridge" is actually still a good tip, although the design of the milk shelves in my local store discourages this practice by making it hard to reach back there. Luckily I have long arms.


These are the only "smart shopper" tips I can really remember, so I guess one for two isn't bad. But I have tips of my own that I will now share.


  • "Avoid the salt fridge at all costs" - you know the one, with the frozen pizzas and mozza sticks and wieners dipped in batter. Just don't look at that fridge! What, do you want to eat 200% of your daily sodium needs in a single sitting? Or are you just going to eat 4 mozza sticks? No, because you heated the toaster oven to 450° and you don't want to waste the heat. Just roast up some red peppers and onions. They're delicious.

  • "Tune out the sale colour" - stores use tags of a brighter, sometimes even neon colour to denote a price drop, or "sale," on their products. You might think, "Sale! I can save money by making a choice right now!" However, most of the sales are terrible. Six dollars is still too much to pay for ice cream, hoofprints or not. And don't let it affect your bread decisions, because all you'll get with economy bread is mold, days earlier. There's plenty of old bread in the dumpster out behind the store, if you return under the cover of darkness.

  • "Do you need cheese?" - sometimes the answer is a resounding "yes," such as when you've promised to make someone cheese-bread or have committed to a fondue party with co-workers. But usually cheese is optional. First of all, it's the most expensive thing in the store, other than those artisanal oils with the sprigs of parsley in the bottles. You couldn't spare a dollar for the homeless man you passed on the street, but you'll drop nine on a wedge of Jarlsberg? It is smoky, I'll admit, but you're only cheating yourself. And the homeless man. I bet if you gave him the cheese, he wouldn't even accept it, and you'd still feel like an awful person.


That's all for grocery tips this week. Next time, I'll be talking about different varieties of egg and how the brown, speckled ones, which look the most delicious, are in fact no different from the white kind.



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