Mon-ology

Technology Singularity is a term used to describe how technology will take over the world one day by learning to be more like people. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a term used to describe how technology shows naturally developing human processes. These processes include but are not limited to reasoning, self-correction, speech recognition, vision and much more.

What this means to ordinary people such as you and I is that life is getting easier at great consequence. As AI gets more advanced the technology becomes able to predetermine the outcome of your situation. As an example, look at new cell phones. When you pick them up now they automatically turn on, some brands of cell phones will even greet you by name and tell you your schedule or broadcast the weather. This AI believe it or not is making our lives so much better but at the same time making our lives completely worse. Using my Wife Courtenay and her cell phone as an example, when Courtenay wakes up on an average day the first thing she does is check the time on her phone. Simply punch a button and there it is displayed in bright bold letters. Harmless enough, right? Wrong!! What she has just done without knowing it is stimulated parts of her brain that enjoy seeing various types of light. Now if she was trying to get back to sleep she is going to find she has a harder time. Lately AI also has been targeting marketing groups using mediums such as social platforms. These social platforms include but are not limited to Facebook, Amazon, Twitter, etc. Algorithms look at various searches made by you to advertise on your screen items or services that you may find you need or want. You may also find this AI makes suggestions on your behalf. For example I have a friend whose Facebook suggested she join a BBW dating site (Big Beautiful Woman!), Facebook made an assumption based on search history, maybe profiling to come to this conclusion. Many companies succeed selling their products online this way. The other day I got an email from a contact on my phone, the email contained a link to weight loss and body shaping supplements. It’s no secret I have been researching weight loss supplements on my phone. Later when I went back to this email to find out more about the history of the email. I found out that the email address was bogus and the email was programmed to find a random contact on my phone and pretend it to be a friendly email. Now this specific spam email was designed by a person to sell something of an online store, but other emails can be programmed to steal items such as your banking information. How does this tie into our talk about AI? Well the code used must be smart enough to be able to penetrate your phone in your phones language and chose a contact to be disguised as. Another upside to new technology is the freedom of information. For instance, you are looking to make pumpkin pie and you know you have no idea how to bake. Well simply grab your phone or tablet and in a couple of key strokes (less if you use PREDICTIVE text) you can find a recipe to suit your needs. Getting information has never been easier, however is this what AI wants? As you use technology to develop new skills and hobbies have you ever thought of how hard it used to be like in the 90’s to learn something. You had to find someone who knew that skill or hobby and that person had to find a way to teach it to you. Also, you had to find a way to learn it. There were aspects of communication, socialization that got developed along with the hobby or skill. Now you can find a video on YouTube showing you how to do this newly acquired skill or hobby. Did you learn it?

Technology is also so addictive that people struggle to live without it. If you have kids, have you ever planned a holiday around whether there will be WIFI available? Technology has been developed to help someone profit at the customer’s expense. Advertisers spend billions of dollars ensuring that you have the latest technology and that it makes your life that much better. My Wife and I are victims of this, it’s so bad we have developed cell phone free weekends for my Wife. Even having cell phone free weekends tho isn’t enough Courtenay still can’t seem to break away from her phone. She even said and I quote “bathroom time is my time, I can use my phone”. Courtenay is not the only victim of technology, I myself cannot tear myself away from our TV at night. I cannot however take the TV to the bathroom with me. I might if it were not so big, Never the less technology is still a problem.

Another reason technology is damaging lives is because it makes people become more ignorant or lazy. What I mean by this is people sit around complaining that we cannot find things to do when really there are lots of things to do. Things as simple as going for a walk which would be beneficial to one’s health. Right now, I am sitting writing on my laptop writing about this subject because I am bored and my Wife is lying beside me googling something. We should be taking our dog Ginger to the park or something.

To others such as the working person, technology is a very dangerous thing and one of the biggest reasons for unemployment. Walk into any Walmart, superstore or grocery store and you will see automated tills. Tills designed for you to scan and bag your own items. This cluster of till is manned usually by one person. Whereas the number of people needed to man the tills in the past was one person per till. If for instance you have 12 automated tills at every store and there are only 12 store in Calgary you have just eliminated 132 jobs. On top of this because you have less staff on hand you also require less supervisors and management.

On a different aspect of automated tills, people absolutely love to hate this idea of self-scanning tills. While you are at whatever store you are at, watch the people standing in line. You will see that the people in line are complaining about how long an individual is taking to ring thru their items, and then when it’s their turn the individual whose checking out takes their time.

Just this evening my Wife and I were watching Star Wars and discussing how a droid army could be a reality more than a idea. In our day and age with the assistance of AI unmanned armies are not far from reality.

Elon Musk someone I believe to be super intelligent and one of my personal heroes has made huge advances in AI. Rumors convey a pair of robots who have taken our language and transmitted it between themselves in an original code of their own.

Many companies have also developed self-driving cars. Driving cars are capable of making driving decisions without the assistance of a person.

So there you have it a quick and dirty take on how technology is taking over the world.

Thanks for listening

Daniel

Painted Rooms

Recently I undertook the task of painting a single room in our house and naturally as I was painting, my wife Courtenay went paint crazy. We have now practically painted the entire house! When I started, I was using just brushes and rollers to paint my rooms. If you have ever painted a room in your own house you know that this process takes forever! Between taping, patching and rolling a small room could take several hours to several days depending on what you are covering and how many coats you need.

The other day I was shopping at Lowes and I was in the painting section looking at purchasing more rollers for the rest of the rooms and there were so many options. Walking down the aisle I came to the section that held all the paint sprayers. To my surprise there were not too many options. At Lowes, there was only 4 options. Crazy!

What I discovered after doing a quick web search is that there is only a few major brands of paint sprayers and the most common brand of paint sprayer is Wagner. Staring at the shelf at Lowes, I saw 4 Wagner boxes for paint sprayers. They are: the Basic, Basic Plus, Premium, Heavy Duty (Pro). I bought the Basic Plus because after reading the box because with the plus you can use both the oil based and latex paints.

To my surprise the sprayer itself was very easy to set up and use. What the instructions do not warn you about is how much preparation goes into setting up your room. For instance, when rolling a room, you merely must tape borders and trims. But with the Sprayer you must tape all the borders and trims as well as plastic the sealing and floor if the floor is finished. You also must plastic the entry, windows and any closets, all while providing good ventilation. Once the preparation is complete however the quality you get from using a paint sprayer is so much more superior to rolling and brushing.

Paint sprayers, even the most basic and cheap ones can complete the painting part of the project in a fraction of the time which for me makes up for the preparation time and process. Also by spraying I eliminated all brush strokes from the project. Which includes the brush strokes around the framing, trims, the corners and the transitions from the wall to the roof.

One thing I learned while I was working on the project that is also common sense, is to wear clothing you don’t care about, wear a carbon breathing mask, safety glasses and wash yourself off right after each coat. I watched many videos on YOUTUBE about using my Wagner paint sprayer and they make it look so easy. The actors jump into a room wearing their favorite clothing and start spraying. The videos cuts script to the end showing a beautiful room. Never once do they put on PPE (Personal Protective Equipment). Another thing I learned is that you need to clean the sprayer between each coat, especially with the latex paints. AHHH! So, while I was painting my first room it started getting blotchy and specky. This was due to dried up paint getting stuck in the nozzle causing lag and obstruction. After I figured this out I cleaned the unit out with hot water and the provided cleaning brush I was back on track. And got a beautiful finish.

Coming back to the Wagner Paint sprayer, we have used this tool to paint many items such as all the doors in the house and the new base boards. Practically anything we had brushed previously. Keep in mind if you only have a small project to do a paint sprayer Is not worth the time. We also found out that having proper ventilation is important. I spray painted our master bedroom upstairs and due to lack of proper ventilation, our smoke detector went off and our security alarm company called us to ensure we were okay. According to them, harsh chemical smells, such as those from paint, can set off a smoke detector. It is more common when using a sprayer, as the paint is vaporized into the air.

 

 

Overall, I have found a paint spraying is a good investment if you plan on painting multiple rooms in your house. We have saved so much time using a sprayer. We also saved money by using the paint sprayer to paint our wall instead of hiring someone. Using the paint sprayer you get a professional finish with a reasonable cost.

 

 

Money Saving Ideas

Money has always been the leading cause of stress in my life. There is not a day that goes by that I do not think about how much money I am making and how much money I am spending. Even a simple trip to the grocery store causes me stress. This is how I have always been. Recently, my Wife and myself have been on a mission to cut our costs down as much as possible. Over the last few years we have reduced some of our costs drastically.

Credit Cards

Savings: $1000+

One area in which we have reduced costs is with our bank and credit accounts. One way which we drastically cut costs was paying off our credit cards and not carrying a balance going forward. We were doing well with our credit cards, until we decided to get a joint credit card and use that instead of our individual cards. For some reason with our cards joint, we found it was harder to keep track of our spending. It was hard to account for what the other person was spending, unless we talked about everything we charged to the credit card, which was not always the case. Now, when we charge something to the credit cards, we let each other know and have found we have always been able to pay out balance off in full every month. By not carrying a balance on our credit cards we do not have to pay the monthly interest. What we learned overtime is that when you carry a balance on your credit card you tend to pay more in interest up front than you do on principle. How we resolved the situation is to pay the minimum payment and save up until we had enough to pay the cards off completely. If we ever needed to charge a large purchase to the credit cards and we didn’t have enough in savings to pay it off we would then transfer money from our line of credit temporarily.  Our line of credit has a much lower rate than our credit cards so we would pay far less interest.

Bank Accounts

Savings: $540

Another way we saved money is with our bank accounts. We were given a free chequing and savings account for a year with our bank when we signed our mortgage with them. After the year was up we never took the time to review what type of account we had, and did not pay attention to the banking fees we were incurring. Once we looked, we realized we were paying 5 times the amount in banking fees than what we could have been paying! We went to the bank and changed our accounts to something better suited for our needs and we ended up saving $200 a year! Our bank even reversed the fees we had already paid.

Mortgage

Savings: $1000+

We also save money on our mortgage by making weekly payments. While we do not see any savings right away, in doing so we are paying thousands of dollars less in interest over the life of our mortgage because the weekly payments allow us to pay our mortgage off 1 year sooner.

Cell Phones

Savings: $720+

We also reduced cost on our cell phones. We chose to buy our phones outright instead of signing a contract and having the new phones as part of that contract. A lot of the times when you sign a contract and get a phone for a reduced price or “free”, in the long run you are paying more for the phone and the plan than if you were to purchase them separately. It depends on the deal of the plan, but we have found this is usually the case. By purchasing our phones outright and choosing a plan without a contract as they are usually lower in price, we save money over the long run.

An added benefit to having your own phone is that you can switch providers whenever you find a better deal. We used to pay $160 a month for two phone plans and now pay $100 a month for both. As an example, we were originally with Rogers for years, however, we switched to Virgin to get more data at a lower rate. Currently we just switched providers again and now we doubled our data and lowered the cost by switching to Freedom Mobile. We also just learned that soon Freedom Mobile users may get additional savings because Shaw Telecommunication bought out Freedom Mobile. Bundling services may be available in the future. Fingers Crossed!

Groceries

Savings: $1000+

Another way we have saved money is when shopping for groceries we always tried to stick to a list. So many times, my Wife and I have gone in for a few items and come out with a cart full! By having a list we are less tempted to buy on a whim or let our cravings guide us through the grocery isles!

It also helps when you shop at places that have reward programs. Collecting points and using them on necessities and not luxury goods will help you save money in the long run. A lot of apps exist that can help you save money as well. You must seek them out for where you live and some larger companies sponsor these apps to draw customers in. We shop at several stores that offer reward and loyalty points. We also use apps to collect rebates on our groceries if they qualify.

We also saved money grocery shopping for our pets by switching to the Costco brand dog food. We had two dogs at the time, a Rottweiler and a Lab Pitbull cross, and man do they eat! We used to buy premium dog food at a pet store and were easily spending $150+ a month. We had heard great things about the Costco brand dog food and looked at the nutritional information compared to our premium brand. The nutritional information was almost identical, as were the ingredients.

Insurance

Savings: $1700

When it comes to insurance, you really need to shop around. When I was 16 and living with my parents I never really understood how expensive my insurance was. I had a part time job and every month I had no problems making enough to pay for insurance. I have had many different insurance providers and so far, the best rate we have gotten is through Inova Insurance Brokerage. This is Costco’s insurance carrier and members get significant savings. By switching our insurance carriers, we saved $1500. Most of the others Insurance carriers use a suggested cost schedule which factors in your age and driving history. Another way to save money is to bundle your insurances together. Usually if you bundle your cars, home, life, motorcycle, etc. you get discounts. We also pay our insurance as a yearly lump sum instead of monthly payments. Many insurance carriers offer a discount for paying all at once. In our case, we save 10%.

Vehicles

Savings: $1000+

We also sold both our vehicles to purchase vehicles that were not as expensive and better suited our needs. I have purchased my vehicle out right to free up our monthly cash flow. In the event, I had lost my job I have the option to drop the insurance to as little as fire and theft, until the time I got a new job and I start needing to drive full time. By having this vehicle paid in full I also have no lien or loan on the vehicle which lowers my insurance premium. If you want to know my personal struggles when it comes to vehicles see the following site here. My Wife sold her Jeep Wrangler and purchased a Jeep Cherokee. Her Cherokee did not cost as much to purchase as her Wrangler, is cheaper to insure and gets better gas mileage. The Cherokee is also better suited for our needs.

Cable, Internet and Home Phone

Savings: $1200

Another way to we reduced our monthly spending is to cancel services that are not needed. We decided to cancel our cable and home phone. We never used our home phone as we use our cell phone instead. Many people we talk to never use their home phone either or just do not have one. I would not be the least bit surprised if home phones became a thing of the past! Cable television can be a very large expense in household budgets. For us the cable bill monthly was $100, and this was not even for the premium channels! Thanks Shaw! We ended up keeping our internet and use services such as Netflix to replace our cable. If there is a show on cable television we are dying to see, many of our family and friends are happy to let us into their homes to watch with them!

Restaurants and Fast Food

Savings: $1000+

One of our biggest expenses is eating out. Some months we are so bad we eat out several times a week! This habit can add up to a couple hundred dollars a month without you even noticing! We still struggle with this occasionally, but we have gotten much better and planning our meals for the week. We are the most successful when we plan meals that are easy to prepare and are not overly complicated.

Baby Items

Savings: $1000+

Babies are expensive! Some expenses are unavoidable, but we have managed to save some money when it comes to diapers, formula and baby food. To save money on diapers, we use cloth diapers. I have written a separate post about our cloth diaper experience that you can view here. We have been exclusively formula feeding Parker since he was a month old. My Wife and Parker experienced problems breastfeeding so we had to switch to formula. This was not an expense we were anticipating, as we had just assumed breastfeeding would not be a problem. We quickly found out that formula can be expensive! At first, we were using ready-made liquid formula but made the switch to powdered formula once we realized how much money we could be saving. We also switched from a brand name formula to the Costco brand formula. Our Doctor told us that baby formulas are all pretty much the exact same, except some contain added DHA and Omegas and others do not. The Costco brand we buy does have the added vitamins and is significantly less expensive per serving than a brand name formula. We also save money by making our own baby food. Jars of baby puree can cost anywhere between $0.50 to $2.00 a jar. For the same price, my Wife can make several batches of purees herself. Not everyone has time to make baby food, but if you do it is a great way to save some money.

As you can see, with some planning and effort there are many ways you can save some money on everyday costs.

What efforts have you taken to save money on day to day expenses? Let us know in the comments below!

 

 

Personal Topic: Depression

A couple years ago I had a hard time being happy. I was miserable to a point where I felt the need to seek medical attention. I needed assistance dealing with my mood, my well-being and my attitude. It got to a point where it was such a daily occurrence that my Wife, Courtenay, had a nickname for when I was in this mood, “Danny Downer”. My wife and I found that I was always angry and sad for some reason or other. For the longest time before seeking medical help I tried dealing with my issue on my own. I tried things I found on the internet and tried to improve my mood by buying material goods. This didn’t last long as spending money really stressed me out making things worse. There are a lot of posts on the internet on dealing with depression. The truth is, Dr. Google as I call the internet, has just as much good information as it has bad information. Everyone deals with their problems in their own way.

One of my biggest issues was not being able to make decisions and not being able to focus. My depression started to affect my job. I found I felt I had to work extra hard to keep my job. My job also became an extra source of stress on me as I work in the Oil and Gas sector, which was entering a bust cycle. I went to work every day worried about losing my job and saw many of my colleges around me laid off. I was so stressed out I found myself using at least one sick day a month.

I came to learn that depression can be a very vicious cycle. It was easier to become more and more depressed than it was to be happy. I had many more bad days than I had good days and the more I thought about being depressed the more stressed I got which made me even more depressed! At one point my depression struck me so hard that I became impotent. Over time I became very sexually frustrated and had low stamina or self-confidence. I scared me because I have never not been able to perform before. Impotency for me was a huge turning point in my life I told myself I had to seek medical attention.

I first sought help with my family doctor, I explained to her my situation and how I was depressed to the point I became impotent. She explained to me how depression is very hard to diagnose and treat because it is more a psychological condition than a physical condition. The very first thing I agreed to try was talking to a psychologist. The Psychologist gave me many ideas on how to deal with my issue. The ideas were as simple as writing out the issue that I thought was making me sad. However, for me personally the Psychologist was not effective in treating my depression.

The second step that my family Doctor and I took was to draw some blood work and test my hormone levels. My hormone levels were on the low side but still within a safe range. On a side note, I discovered my cholesterol was a bit high and my thyroid level was on the low side. Otherwise I was healthy.

The third step that the Doctor took was sending me for a test to see if there was anything wrong with my man hood. The procedure that they performed is called a Cystoscopy. Esentially what happens is a camera is inserted up in your penis to have an internal look. The Doctor that did the procedure noticed lots of scar tissues. He explained to me that the scar tissue was pretty old and probably caused when I was young. He determined it was nothing to be alarmed about. At this point my family doctor gave me some Viagra 50mG tabs and I was advised to take only a half a pill at a time. For me the Viagra made my life so much better. Firstly, it took the pressure of the performance issues and secondly, It made me feel good to be able to pleasure my wife sexually again. This was a huge reward for me.

I was prescribed Cymbalta by my family Doctor a short time later. Cymbalta is a drug that treats two things: depression and anxiety. The prescription caused me at first to be a little messed up. I experienced hallucinations and a bit of a rash. I was warned about these symptoms which went away within a couple days. After about a week, both my Wife and I noticed a significant change in my moods and overall being. Danny Downer was gone! I joined a gym and committed to going 5 days a week for months. I could think things through and I stopped being angry all the time. Although I was happier and recovering from the depression, my impotency was one issue I was not able to solve right away. One of the side effects of Cymbalta is impotency. I ended up using a fair bit of Viagra at first. After about 11 months I made a choice to wean myself off the Cymbalta. I felt that my mood, attitude and overall health was good enough that I could live without it. I have been off the Cymbalta since November 15 2016, and my overall well-being is still good. There are days I feel down but they don’t happen very often. My impotency is also fading away over time as well.

After thinking about my depression, I am convinced it was induced by stress. I still have quite a bit of stress, but I am finding ways to deal with it.

Thanks for reading, I hope that you may have found this topic helpful.

-Daniel

 

A Dad’s Perspective on Baby Items

If you go on to the Internet or walk into any book store and you search for “what do I need to bring baby home?” you will find thousands of items that are recommended. The question is what should you have?

Unlike a lot of parents we know, our house is not over-flowing baby items. In fact, if you were to come into our house when everything is put in its place, you may not notice we have a baby until you get to the nursery room. Or until you see his smiling face (he is always smiling!). I am not saying we do not have a fair bit of stuff, because we do. The stuff we do have for him is useful items that I would say for the most part, we use almost every day. It is nice to be able to walk around our house without stepping on baby items every 10 steps! As a bonus, cleaning our house and keeping it safe for Parker becomes an easier task when we have less items to worry about.

It is amazing how many products are on the market for babies! Sometimes I find it hard to believe that people actual spend money on these items! Many parents just like us are led to believe that you must have items such as bottle warmers and wipe warmers, this is just not true. When I first saw a product that covers your baby boy’s genitals during a diaper change to prevent you from getting peed on, I had to laugh. Personally, I would not say that is a necessary item, as good timing and a wipe can accomplish the same task. Plus, a wipe can be disposed of whereas the pee guard would have to be washed. Not so convenient anymore! My Sister registered for this and received them and I highly doubt she has ever used them! Yet she felt compelled to register for them because she was lead to believe she “needed” them.

These items are merely a convenience item that many parents buy and never use. Marketing companies succeed at getting you to purchase these unnecessary items by making you believe you cannot raise a child without them.

Price can also be a deciding factor when selecting what items to purchase. A high price point is not always an indicator of high quality. For example, my Sister bought a pricey stroller and is not impressed with it. Based on the price point, she was expecting more. I bought my Wife the cheapest stroller I could find, so her expectations were low. Just kidding! I did buy a stroller for less than half of what my Sister paid for hers, and it performs just as well, if not better than her stroller.

I also looked at reviews of strollers at different price points to get a sense of the quality, safety and convenience. This also helped me deciding what features were important to us and what was unnecessary. Why pay for features you may not need. When choosing a stroller, some good advice would be to buy one that comes with the car seat and vehicle base stations. The three items click together so that you don’t need to wake the baby when switching between the car and the stroller. As I have come to learn a sleeping baby is a happy baby! Other items that come at various price points are: cribs, bassinets, high chairs and swings. Personally, I think bassinets are a waste of time and I refused to buy one. I also refused to buy an expensive crib because I have read that over the life of a crib infants are going to chew and scratch the cribs up. We purchased a crib from Ikea and Parker has slept in it since a month after we brought him home. He always has a huge smile on his face when we go and get him from his own room.

We also re-used a lot of our existing possessions when we assembled our nursery. For example, we upcycled an old dresser we had lying around. We painted the dresser to match the furniture in the room and secured a changing pad on the top. By doing this I managed to save space and money. Now I have the dresser for storing clothing and diapers, as well as a safe place to change Parker, bonus!

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Some of the items you should have to bring your baby home may include: a car seat that isn’t expired, diapers, wipes, a diaper bag, blankets, a crib or bassinet, a place to change your baby, stroller, clothes, thermometer, diaper rash cream, bottles, formula (if you plan on or need to formula feed), grooming kit, baby wash, a bathing tub, changing mat or changing pad, pacifiers, bottle sterilizer and a play mat.

One of the item that my Wife and I have bought and have not used is our baby monitor. Some parents swear by them. Personally, I find them to be annoying and unnecessary. For my wife and I, Parker is close enough in the other room that we can hear him cry and his crib is open and safe enough that we are not overly concerned about SIDS. I am not saying that baby monitors are a bad idea, they are just not important to us. Not yet anyways.

I consider myself to be a worry wart and so I bought most of our baby stuff before Parker was even born. I got most of the baby stuff on sale. If you are patient, within the months leading up to your special day, you will have an opportunity to shop on sale, as eventually everything goes on sale. You can also find select items second hand. As an example, we bought a play pen second hand so that if it happened to get destroyed we didn’t care. Online communities such as Varage Sale or Kijiji exist for this purpose. As a note of caution, you should never buy a car seat or stroller second hand as these items have expiry dates.

-Daniel