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Saturday, 2 November 2013

Been a real long time...

Wow, it's been so long since I've last blogged.  The last time I posted something was in the summer on my birthday.  That was back on June 10th.  Well, so much has happened since then, where do I begin?  But to be honest, ever since the Snowden revelations, I didn't much feel a need to blog and divulge my personal life so openly online.  I don't know, I'd rather not have the NSA document what I've been up to in my life, since they're spying on everyone around the world.  If you're not aware of the NSA spying, then you're probably a hermit or Buddhist monk living in Tibet.  By now, everyone who's got a computer should've stumbled upon a story here or there, there's been tons of reports in various different media outlets.  Just Google NSA spying or Prism and the results will be plenty.  Anyway, so what have I been up to?

Well, since Snowden, I've been making memes and posting them on FB.  Some are funny, some are critical of the US, and some are just plain dumb news stories that make you kinda shake your head.  I was making quite a few everyday when the news broke about the NSA but since then, not so much anymore.  I guess I've lost interest over time, but my memes album has almost 300 images and all varying issues.  You can view the album here: https://www.facebook.com/ToanQuyTran/media_set?set=a.10152907997065230.1073741828.657360229&type=3 ...  Here's the latest meme I made:



And this one was when news broke of the crack video:


The whole story is pretty ridiculous.  It was the talk of the town the other day.  But you know, I told my sis and bro-in-law about it, and my bro-in-law basically said it's just political gossip for me.  Which is kinda true, but I told him, "You gotta hold politicians to a higher standard, since they were elected to serve the public."  But they don't really care much about politics anyway.  I think I'm the only person in my family and extended family who likes to discuss politics.  Most Viets don't care much for politics or let alone even vote during elections, I find.  I think my dad who lives in the States voted for Obama but that's about it.  Not even my lil bro who lives in the States with him voted in the 2012 election.  I speak to my lil bro in FB sometimes and he's mentioned to me that he was kinda let down by all that talk about "Hope & Change" that were Obama's talking points in 2008.  Well, there's not much hope and Obama has just been a continuation of Bush policies.  If you want to debate me about Obama, I'm more than happy to oblige.  But surprisingly enough, I was recently unfriended by a couple of dudes who disagreed with me and I guess they didn't approve of some of my Obama memes.  But oh well, who needs them anyway.

So, what else have I been up to?  At the beginning of September, I was enrolled into another adult education class, I'm just 1 credit shy of getting my OSSD.  However, the class that I enrolled in was such utter BS!  So it's supposed to be a grade 11 IT/Business course.  Sounds interesting right?  Wrong!  I went to only 2 classes and was like, "Hell no, what am I doing here."  The teacher was kinda interesting though.  She was this Jamaican lady, but honestly, she had so many stories to tell that she kept digressing from the course material.  When she finally told us what we were actually going to be doing, I literally shook my head and was like WTF.  So the course consisted of typing skills throughout.  Ok, I type 45 words per minute ever since grade 10 back in the 90's.  No biggie.  Then she told us that we would be mostly studying how to use Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.  And that's when I decided not to go back.  Not only do I already know how to use those 3 programs but the MS Office that we were going to be learning on in the class computers was Office 2007.  I thought that's really redundant and I have Office 2013 on my laptop.  What's the point of me learning how to use the 2007 version.  In 2013, everything is changed and some of the options and commands are in different places.  So I didn't go back to class after the 2nd class I attended.  Plus, I got called back into work to do the political surveys again and there was no way that I would do an 8 hour afternoon/evening shift, come home late, and wake up early to make a 10 o'clock class.  But there's not much more I can say about my job, it's part-time, minimum wage, and really easy work.  That is all.

On another life decision I had to make in September was a bit of a sad one.  After weeks of debating my choice and thinking about it, I decided to take a break from my choir.  However, I only notified the director of my decision on the weekend prior to first rehearsal.  He was a little disappointed and asked me why I decided not to come back.  Since I was off work for the whole summer, I was really broke at the time and told him that part of the reason was the cost of the membership fee.  But it's not just the membership fee that I was thinking of.  There was also the cost of the retreat that was going to happen immediately after the first rehearsal as well as travelling costs from Mississauga to Toronto every week.  Then there's the tour at the end of the season.  I had a load of fun with the choir during last June's tour but I ended up spending a lot of money that weekend, and ended up owing my sister more money than I already owe as I had to borrow money from her to be able to go on tour.  So not being able to afford this next season was one of my big concerns.  The other one is the travelling itself.  It takes 2 hours each way to travel from Mississauga to Toronto and back.  So, I would be in transit a total of 4 hours each Tuesday.  Rehearsal finishes at 8 and I would only get in my front door by 10 pm.  Unfortunately, I didn't want make that time commitment.  If I had a car and was able to drive, it would make it easier to get to and from rehearsal but I don't even have a license and only own an old bicycle.  Public transit is the only option in Mississauga, and sometimes, I would bike the rest of the way once I reach Islington station.  I just didn't want to make the trek every week any more.  It is a really long trek.  I do miss singing though.  It was really fun for those 3 seasons I was part of the choir.  I'll still go to the concerts when they come up and I still help them out in anyway I can as a kind of satellite member.  I'm not completely done with Univox Choir.  Who knows, maybe I'll get the itch to sing again once the weather turns nice again.

On another note, I got a message in the middle of September from my buddy from the choir who also happens to DJ.  He mentioned to me that Univox wanted to hold a fundraising DJ night in Oct.  Cool.  However, they wanted to hold the fundraiser in the same place as we did it in the summer of 2012.  I raised my concerns about that and suggested that there may be a better venue.  After some back and forth and getting a hold of the owner of Tota Lounge on Queen, they changed the venue.  And it was good that my friend informed me a month before the 19th.  I was able to get some practice in on his Serato system.  The party was off the hook.  I barely play out anymore and playing that night was a lot of fun.  Although, there were some technical difficulties during my set.  At one point, one of the tracks started skipping and my buddy had to troubleshoot the issue in the middle of my set.  Then part way through my set, the booth light went off, either the bulb got loose or they completely shut it.  We had a lamp under the laptop but that too was low on battery and went out.  So I was spinning in complete darkness.  Surprise, Halloween came early for me, it was really scary playing in complete darkness.  We recorded my set but I had such a tough time beatmatching that night that I wasn't too thrilled with it.  Also, we didn't have the proper slip mats so the time-code records were slipping too much.  Every time I tried to just nudge it, it would skip several beats.  It was one of the toughest sets I've played.  Luckily, I didn't trainwreck at all, except near the end when the beats weren't completely matched.  Everyone had a lot of fun and said I did a great set.  At the time, I wasn't happy with my set, but after listening to the recording, it wasn't that bad of a set.  No one noticed that the phrasing was a bit off as I had to constantly re-cue.  The beats were matched for most of the entire set, however, since I was DJing in the dark, I wasn't too aware of my levels.  So in the recording, one channel is lower than the other.  Suffice to say, I didn't want to post that set.  Instead, I made a small mix using some of the tunes that I played during that night.  Here it is in it's entirety and you can stream it right from here:



I had loads of fun that night and hope they do another fundraiser soon.

Anyway, that's all from me for now.

Monday, 10 June 2013

No more English...

Yay, I just did my final English exam.  It was pretty easy, just like a test, not really that long.  And my class mark going into the presentation and exam is 86%.  I've done pretty well on some of the test, scoring near perfect on some of them.  Time to celebrate, I'm having a beer as I blog.  Plus, it's my birthday today, I just turned 32.  I asked my older sis if we can get a cake and she's like, "If you want."  Lets hope it's ice-cream cake.  

And yesterday, we just did our final show of the season with my choir, Univox Choir.  It went pretty well, but not a lot of people showed up however.  But it was a pretty hard piece that we performed, Bruckner's Mass No. 2 in E minor.  I had a few mistakes while singing, but I also noticed our best tenor voice also made a few minor mistakes.  I was counting on him to be perfect so if I screwed up I can rely on getting back to the right part with him standing next to me.  But while we were singing, I was off and he was off sometimes too.  But seriously, that Bruckner mass is really hard.

On a more disappointing note, I had a run-in with a Toronto cop yesterday on my way to the church.  I was riding my bike eastbound on Bloor crossing at the intersection of Ossington.  I had my headphones blasting the Bruckner mass and I didn't hear that an ambulance was on it's way to the intersection heading north.  As I got to the green light, I saw that there was an ambulance coming up the street and as my breaks on my bike aren't that great, I decided to go for it instead of stopping, as trying to stop at the speed that I was going at would have made me stop at the intersection and block the ambulance's way.  There was no chance of stopping safely without blocking the ambulance, so I went for it.  Minutes later, just a block away, I got pulled over by this police car.  I tried to plead with the officer that I was sorry, that I didn't hear the sirens and was in a rush but he would have none of it.  He started berating me and yelling at me at the top of his lungs.  He took my health card as ID as I don't have a drivers license, went back into the police car and did the usual things.  Then he came out with 2 tickets and explained to me that he has a personal vendetta against cyclists, that he hates cyclists, and then handed me the tickets.  I was shocked to find the fine for each ticket was $495.  I couldn't believe that.  He told me I deserved every penny of those tickets, and if I was going to fight the charges, he would be submitting video evidence.  And then he drove off.

Luckily for me, a pedestrian witnessed how the cop pulled me over and the whole exchange.  This dude by the name of Leo came up to me and asked me if I was ok.  I told him I got 2 traffic tickets worth almost $500 each.  Then Leo said to me that he had witnessed the cop pull me over and that the cop car almost ran me over and ran me off the road.  Then Leo told me to take down his email and that if I needed him to help fight the charges, that he would be my witness to the incident.  I took down his email and thanked him for that.  In our exchange he was like that's unbelievable, I shouldn't even have been given such severe tickets, a warning would have suffice.  So now, I have to go down to Edward St.  within the next 15 days to resolve this issue.  I'm gonna fight these charges as they are so bogus.  One ticket is for failing to stop for an emergency vehicle and the other is careless driving.  In any case, I was on my bicycle.  I'm not operating a motor vehicle so there really shouldn't be that big of a penalty.  But that cop was the biggest prick ever.  So, just another headache to deal with.

But seriously, there's bigger problems in the world right now.  Recently, I've been following the news out of the US about the NSA's spying programme called Prism which has backdoors connected to some of the top tech companies in America like Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and Apple just to name a few. There wasn't any avoiding this news since Twitter blew up Thursday night when the story broke that same morning in The Guardian newspaper with Glenn Greenwald breaking the story.  I've had feelings about people being spied on in social media ever since the summer of 2010 when the G20 was in Toronto.  Questions arise as to how they arrested organizers way before the big protest on the Saturday, how else other than through social media.  So it doesn't surprise me to find out that the NSA has been spying on the world's internet since 2007.  The revelations keep coming.  Just yesterday, the whistleblower who blew the whistle on Prism revealed his identity in an interview with The Guardian.  Here's the link to the article and the full interview: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/jun/10/edward-snowden-united-stasi-america.

So when I heard about Prism, I came up with the idea to make some memes about the story.  Damning truth is always better swallowed wrapped up in comedy.  Here's one:


Here's the thing that shocked me.  As I was in the process of trying to make another meme, I was somehow blocked out of http://memegenerator.net.  Chrome was returning an error 501, which I know is when you're being blocked from accessing a specific IP address online.  So it seemed like someone found out I was trying to make another controversial meme through that website and that someone was blocking me from accessing that meme website.  So it dawned on me.  Maybe that's because FB, Google, and other internet giants track our online activity and they tracked me to meme generator trying to make another meme.  It seems logical that since the NSA has a backdoor to these networks and they could also find out about my online activity through FB and Google as well in real-time.  So, I then proceeded to the Chrome Web Store and installed some anti-tracking extensions for Chrome and also reset my modem to clear my IP address and obtain a new one.  After I did these two things, meme generator worked normally again and I was able to make my 2nd meme.  Here's that controversial meme I was trying to make but failed making it at first:


There's a couple of other memes in my memes album on FB.  But this one above was the tricky one to make.  The picture kept disappearing before I was completely blocked out of meme generator.  Suffice to say, they've got nothing on me.  I will be making more memes, and in terms of tracking my online activity, I've installed several different anti-tracking extensions so that no tech company can ever track me anymore.  Like adblock extensions, you need more than one of these kinds of extensions for them to all work in conjunction in order to stop their tracking.  I highly suggest going to the Chrome Web Store and searching for all the different kinds of extensions available for you to install to cater to your browsing needs.  I have a bunch, from adblock, YouTube, FB, Twitter, and now anti-tracking extensions installed.  

Oh, and if you need programs to optimize your PC, I've got the programs for you.  They are all freeware but really good programs to have.  I've uploaded an archive onto a cloud service for anyone who needs them.  Just hit me up on FB.  Anyway, that's all I've got for now.  Hope the weather will get nicer though, we've had quite a long time of bad weather lately.

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Last stretch...

Once again, I haven't blogged in a long time.  I guess I just don't have enough stories to tell.  But I'm not completely doing nothing at all.  For the last couple of months, I've been busy doing a grade 12 English class at the adult school in Mississauga near Square One.  It's been an alright time, although, I've missed more than a few classes.  However, not enough to get me kicked out of the class.  The maximum number of classes that gets you kicked out is 20 classes missed, and I've now missed, I think, 17 classes, so it's getting close.  But we've only got about a week and a half left of school.  Our final exam happens to fall on my birthday, June 10th.

I'm turning 32 this year.  I feel like I'm getting really old now.  My family and extended family always complains about when and whether I'll get married and have my own kids.  I always tell them how should I get married when I don't even have a girlfriend yet.  My older sister always has some little things to complain about.  It seems she can always find something wrong with me.  I'm constantly shaking my head.  It's kinda annoying sometimes.

I never got my high school diploma all those years ago and once this class is finished, I only have another class to do.  However, I'm not taking summer school.  The World Issues class that I wanted to do starts at 8 in the mornings in the summer and I'd rather not wake up at 6 everyday to go to class.  Plus classes are 3 to 4 hours long so if you miss just one class you'll fall far behind.

Well, school has been fun at times.  I've made some friends there.  However, there has been some annoying group work at first.  The very first group work that we had, I was the one doing most of the work.  And I got into a disagreement with one of the girls.  Despite that, we did pretty well on our presentation.  Now, I have to prepare for a presentation on my own.  I have to find a poem that relates to the two books that we read.  The first book was King Lear, and the second book was The Kite Runner.  It should be alright but I have to really pack in the 10 minutes that I'm presenting.

With school, I've been barely working.  One day here, one day there.  The contracting office has barely called me for any shifts.  So I've been barely making any money lately.  But once I finish school and am off for the summer then I would be more available.  I'm planning to get a customer service job at a call centre and most jobs require a high school diploma in order to hire you.  That's why I'm doing these courses to get my diploma.  I'm hoping I can get a few more shifts once I finish this English course.  Money is kinda tight these days.

But I'm hoping to work hard at this new home-based business that my sister recently signed me up to and I wouldn't have to worry too much about not having enough money.  My sister recently signed me to be an UnFranchised Business Owner with Market America.  I've been taking this vitamin mix called OPC to help with the pain in my right knee and it has completely gone away.  It's a really good product and helps strengthen your joints.  OPC is part of a line of vitamins called Isotonix made by Market America.  But Market America isn't just a vitamin business.  I also have a shopping portal at http://shop.com/ToanQuyTran and they've got hundreds of partner brands and products.  You can view their business presentation in the video below:



My cousin signed up sometime last year and my sister told me she's already making about 2 grand a month.  So I'm pretty excited about this opportunity.  Plus, I'm already taking one of their products to help my knee and I honestly live by it, taking it every morning.  Of course, it takes time to build up your business.  And once it starts growing, it keeps growing.  Of course, I have to pay back my sister for the money that she invested on my behalf.  We'll see where this goes.

I'm thinking of possibly going back to university after a couple years of working and going into either film and television or journalism.  I've recently been following a lot of political news ever since the G20 in Toronto.  I was down there during all the chaos that ensued after the riots broke out during the big protest on Saturday.  Here's some pics from that weekend:




That was a crazy weekend.  Since then, I've been listening to a lot of Democracy Now as well as watching RT and RTAmerica on YouTube and have become more politically aware.  So I think getting into journalism would be a good fit.  Or I could get into film and television as I have skills editing videos and photos.  I've been editing videos with Adobe Premiere ever since I was 15 when I had to learn how to edit.  I was given a video project from my ballet teacher to put together performances from our summer shows.  All in all, I'd have to say the future is looking promising ever since I moved to Mississauga to live with my family and am taking steps towards different goals.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Life is Art...Art is Life!
(Circa 2003)

The following is a poem I wrote back in 2003 just before we put together Performance pARTy at IT Nightclub.  Some friends and I formed Kazoku Productions back in the fall of 2002 to produce interdisciplinary performance art parties.  Our show at IT Nightclub was performed on Thrusday Jan 30th, 2003.  I can't believe it's been over ten years now since we did that.  IT Nightclub no longer exists.  It was at the corner of Church and Shuter Sts. but now there lies an upper-class condo development.  The facade is still in place though, but the inside has long since been gutted.  It was a really amazing space with the DJ booth overlooking a huge dance floor from a second floor catwalk in the center at the end of the room.  It's such a shame that such an amazing space had to go to be redeveloped for condos.  You can see a small clip of what that night was like at the beginning of our Random Steps videos on my YouTube channel: http://youtube.com/QT1nART as well as one of the performances that took place that night.  It was a great night of fun had by all.  We had an audience of about 300 people who attended that inaugural night and had lots of great feedback from the success of such an event.  Without further adieu, here's the poem I wrote that encapsulated my experience and life at the time I wrote it.


Life is Art...Art is Life!
"And it all resonates on an amazing frequency!"

If you fail to plan the party,
You plan to fail the party.

Close your eyes and open your mind to a world of possibilities.  See yourself in the past, experience the here and now, and envision what the future may be.  Ask yourself, "Who am I, what does life mean to me?"

It doesn't matter who you are, where you come from or what you do.  What matters is having an idea and having enough of the right people to believe in that idea.  That is the basis of all life in innumerable ways.  Life is an epic journey in a world filled with infinite stories.  The art of life is to create your narrative, to conceive your world, and realize your self.  You are the artist, the composer, the librettist, the choreographer, and the dramaturge.  You write your play and play your life whether wrong or right and left in day or night searching for that one bright light.  There your will shine and blind the blind and find the minds and souls of your kind.  Kindred spirits moving through space and time and their heartbeats will flow forthright through you with the rhythm of life.

Like an DJ spinning, you set the tempo and the pace and whoever can see and follow will dance to your music.

Life is Art...Art is Life!

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Extended break...

So I figure I'll post something today.  I've been on a bit of an extended break as of last week on Wednesday.  I had all intentions of going to work last week but failed to do so as I fell asleep after taking a shower and missed my call time.  My field manager immediately rung me off the hook to see where I was and sent me a few text messages.  It wasn't until the manager from head office called me did I get back to them.  So I called in and explained to head office that I fell back asleep so I missed my shift but at the same time that I probably am not fit for this position.  He offered words expressing that I should not be too depressed about it and that I did try it out for a little while and agreed that if that's what I think then it's okay.  Although, I felt bad leaving my field manager in the dark about it.  Oh well, the job isn't for me even though he managed to get to me stay for a little while longer.

Honestly, retail sales with a quota is not my cup of tea.  Especially, signing people up for credit cards as I don't believe people should be getting more into debt.  My experience with my own debt troubles didn't make me a good candidate for this job promoting Canadian Tire credit cards.  Also, if you're not hitting target in the first few hours of your shift or not on par with hitting your target of 1.5 apps per hour, then they send you home.  During that week that I came back to the job, they ended up sending me home twice so I didn't make my full hours.  That was kinda disappointing.  Plus, being on my feet for so long was not making my ankle and knee any better.  So this job was a bit of a hassle for not that much reward.  You're paid either commission or minimum wage, whichever is more, and since I didn't sign that many people in my last pay cycle, I was only making just over $5/hour on commission.  So pretty much, I was wasting my time.  I'd rather take the time off and look for something else more meaningful.

So, I applied for several positions on the BMO website last week and got a call from their recruitment department last Friday.  The interviewer asked me some basic questions and scheduled a phone interview on Monday.  He also got me to do an online assessment to determine my qualifications for the position their looking to fill.  It would be at a call center in their Mastercard division taking customer service calls, located at Mississauga Rd. and 401, which isn't too far from my place.  We did part of the interview on Monday at noon but ran into a snag as he asked me what's my highest level of education I completed.  I told him although I am just 2 credits from my high school diploma that I actually did a couple years at Ryerson University.  He informed me that he wouldn't be able to continue with the interview until he checked with one of his colleagues as to whether that would be allowable that I haven't finished my high school.  He said he'd get back to me asap and that afternoon called me back and left me a message saying that it was possible as long as I have my transcript to show them what courses I had taken.  So we rescheduled our interview for Tuesday.

The interview went pretty well.  After asking all the pertinent yes or no questions, he proceeded to ask me questions that would determine my behaviour in different situations.  For most of the questions, I drew upon my experience with my previous sales oriented roles.  They were pretty straight-forward and simple questions to answer.  I felt pretty good after that interview.  And the interviewer said that if they decide to move forward with a face to face interview with a hiring manager at the call center I'd get a call within about 5 business days.  So probably, they have to review it for a week and I might get a call back next week.  I'm really hoping I get this job as the pay is quite good and it's with a bank.  Plus, I've known of friends who started off at BMO call centers and have had opportunities for career advancements in other bank related areas.  The only thing however is that I may have to give up choir in order to work for BMO.  I wouldn't have enough time from getting off at work and getting to rehearsal on time.  But classes don't start till March 11th, so I still have some time.

On another note, as I was coming home from choir on Tuesday night, the bus driver remarked his surprise at seeing all the flood lights on that night shining down on the baseball diamonds where my bus stop was.  I was surprised too as this past Tuesday was the coldest night of winter and there was absolutely no one out playing baseball in the winter.  As soon as I finished dismounting my bike, I took a second and took out my phone and took a pic of the scene that night making sure to frame all the flood lights that were on that night.


So yesterday, I found out what ward in Mississauga I'm living in and emailed the councillor for my ward about this issue.  She emailed me back and thanked me for the email and pointing her to the issue and that she would direct the issue to the appropriate person.  She said there must be a problem with the electrical system.  So hopefully they get to fix that as having those lights on when no one is using those baseball diamonds is a real waste of energy and resources.  I feel pretty good that I can affect change on a local level.