Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Ten Weeks

Ten Weeks.

2-1/2 Months.

70 Days.

1,680 Hours.

100,800 Minutes.

6,048,000 Seconds...

From Monday, December 15th, 2014 to Monday, February 23rd, 2015 - that's how long I had a broken piece of contact lens stuck in my right eye!

It all started after Sports Night with the Cornerstone Church group. If I remember correctly we had just finished playing volleyball that evening.

After I returned home I took a shower. Afterwards I took off my disposable contact lenses that I quite often use more than once even though they're just dailies.

First I took out my left lens. No problem. Then the right... It ripped. I saw one half on the floor. I couldn't find the other half... but I could feel it. It was stuck somewhere in my eye.

I had had things like this happen to me before where one of my contacts would slip down or up (mostly up) in my eye. Normally, after some fishing around, I'd manage to dig it out. This time, no luck.

I yanked my eyelid up and dug and dug and dug around. For the life of me, I couldn't find it.

Time passed... and more time passed. I was getting desperate. I asked my roommate's roommate, Markus, if he had tweezers. He had a metal pair that I think he probably used to pick his toenails or something. Not to worry... I didn't use them. Besides not being sanitary at all, I relented thinking twice about sticking a sharp metal object into my eye.

Trying to fall asleep that night was horrible. I had this jagged piece of broken lens stuck in my eye all night long. It was just terrible.


I have to say, during the day it wasn't so bad. When my eyes were open it didn't irritate my cornea. But anytime I closed them that's when the piece stuck in my eyelid scratched at it. It was extremely aggravating.

That night I tried again to find the broken piece and fish it out. That night, again, I failed. I struggled to fall asleep with this thing grinding around in my eye another night.

Day three - same as day two, same as day one.


I called my eye doctor and booked an appointment for Friday. She wasn't in, but I saw one of the other doctors at her office.

She was a nice girl. At the office she looked around in my eye, but couldn't find anything. She came to the conclusion that the inside of my eyelid was probably scratched due to all the digging around I had done and that's what was bothering me. Given time it would get better.


Time passed. A week, two weeks, three...

My eye started feeling better. A little. But, still, it never felt like it completely healed.

Even after two months I could still feel something.

And now I know why...


...10 Weeks later, to the day, after showering after another evening at Sports Night I saw it... the @%#@$%$#% piece of broken contact lens that had made a home in my @#$@##$#!$ eye for the past two and a half months.

I have no idea where it was hiding all that time. I have no idea why my right eye didn't rot and fall out from infection. But I'm so glad I found it and that there seems to be no permanent damage.


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Hike at Cold Creek Conservation Area

Emily organized a hike for us last Saturday. Actually, it was just Janice, her and I who ended up going. We went to Cold Creek Conservation Area up around Bolton. It's not too far from Toronto. You just take Highway 427 to the north end and head up a little further along Highway 50 which brings you almost all the way there.

We arrived around 1:00 in the afternoon. They did some shopping beforehand for hot pot dinner. When we got there there was no one else around. I have to admit the temperatures had been very cold over the past week. This Saturday wasn't any different. I don't believe the high topped -10C. With the wind chill it felt even colder.

The visitor centre was closed. But, there was a park vehicle parked at the education centre which was open. There were bathrooms there and we found out you could rent snowshoes ($5) and cross country skis ($10). Emily and Janice rented snowshoes. I chanced it and hiked in my boots.

Their website says there are 6.6 kilometres of trails. We walked 6.8 kilometres over 2-1/2 hours. Emily had her hiking GPS app which told us so.

Besides the chill, it wasn't that bad out. There were intermittent clouds as we walked. The sun and blue skies appeared every now and then.

In certain areas the snow on the trails was packed down. In others it was fairly deep. That's when the snowshoes came in handy.

The snow-covered scenery was nice. I brought my camera along and took a fair number of shots. Catching up to the girls afterwards was pretty tough in the snow.

After awhile we did see others either hiking, snowshoeing or cross country skiing. So we weren't the only crazy people out.

In the evening we headed over to Justin's place for hot pot. Keith and Ken also came over. It was Justin's birthday the next day, so we had cake while we played Heads Up! on Justin's iPad.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Book Review - Stop Over-Thinking Your Money!

Stop Over-Thinking Your Money! - The Five Simple Rules of Financial Success by Preet Banerjee

This was a good book. It gives readers easy to understand steps on how to achieve financial success. The most important thing is to (as Nike says) Just do it!

Here's a summary of the book.


Five simple steps to personal financial success:

1. Disaster-proof your life - Make sure you’re insured for unexpected events (illness/incapacitation/death)

2. Spend less than you earn - Simple advice that’s lost on many people

3. Aggressively pay down high-interest debt - Self explanatory

4. Read the fine print - This applies to when signing any sort of contract

5. Delay consumption - Don’t buy things you don’t have money to pay for right now


All these rules make sense. The concepts aren’t difficult to grasp. Yet many people find themselves struggling to keep afloat financially-speaking. I suggest it has to do with self-discipline or lack thereof. People want things… I want things, you want things. We want things now (not when we actually have enough saved up to buy them).

I believe the problem comes down to the availability of credit (which many people seem to think is free money). Well it isn’t. And the penalty for abusing it is hefty interest payments and the stress of wallowing in the deep well of debt.

If you notice, the author, Preet Banerjee, doesn’t even talk about investing as one of the rules to financial success. Yes, it’s important. But, if you don’t have money to invest it’s a moot point, right?

Sadly, not only do most people not have any money to invest, but they are in debt. One of the latest statistics I heard (at the end of 2014) was that the average Canadian was in debt to the tune of $21,000 (not including mortgage debt). We, as Canadians, currently have one of the highest debt-to-income ratios in the world (162.6 per cent of disposable income as of December, 2014 according to Statistics Canada).


“In the beginning, building up lots of money depends more on putting money away than making money grow because of smart investing decisions.”

1. You need insurance

According to insurance company Great-West Life, one in three people become disabled for 90 days or more before age 65, and of those people, their average length of disability is 2.9 years. That’s a scary statistic that I’d suggest many people aren’t prepared for. Could you last that long without income?

You need:

• Disability insurance in case you become disabled and can’t work (either caused by injury or illness);
• Life insurance (term vs. permanent), which protects your family’s lifestyle in the event of your death. Insurance is most important if you have dependants and you are young and haven’t built up your assets much;
• An emergency fund for loss of employment or unexpected emergencies. 3-month’s expenses recommended, but only if you don’t have outstanding debt. Pay that off first, especially if it’s high-interest debt. You should keep a smaller fund in that case;
• Wills and powers of attorney to help communicate your wishes to others if you can’t do so yourself. A power of attorney is a document that gives someone else the ability to act on your behalf in case you become incapacitated and unable to make decision for yourself. There are two main types of powers of attorney: power of attorney for finances (or property) and power of attorney for health care.

A simple will and power of attorneys can run from as low as $400 to a few thousand dollars.


2. Spend less than you earn

It’s pretty basic. If you spend more than you earn you’ll be a lifetime in debt. The problem is most people don’t even think about it. The see something they want and, irresponsibly, plop down their plastic. In a few years they’re drowning in debt. It’s so common it’s not even funny.

Steps to recovery:

• Figure out your old budget. Calculate ALL your monthly expenses;
• Figure out a new budget. See where you can cut back from your previous budget;
• Start tracking your spending more diligently. Keep ALL your receipts and put them in a jar by the door. Do the same with all your monthly bills. Add them up and the end of the month and compare them with the previous month. Are your expenses going down?;
• Save the savings. If you’ve saved $100 on clothing one month, don’t turn around and spend it on eating out the next month;
• Plan for non-monthly expenses such as holiday or birthday gifts. If you forecast these expenditures on your calendar you can set aside cash to pay for them when the time comes. For example, if you’ve forecasted you spend $1000 a year on gifts, you need to set aside 1/12th of $1000 ($83.33) per month into your short-term savings fund.


3. Aggressively pay down high interest debt

Thou shalt not carry a credit card balance! Debt can cripple people’s finances. Preet recently met a family with more than $50,000 in credit card debt. At an average 28% interest rate they are paying $14,000 per year just to carry the debt. After 10 years they will have paid $140,000 in interest without putting a dent in the debt itself.

• Transfer high-interest balances to low-interest balances. If you have room on a line of credit, start by transferring the credit card balances there. A credit card with a $5,000 balance at 28% interest is costing you more than $115 in interest per month. Transfer that to a line of credit that charges 5% and you’ve saved yourself almost $100 per month.
• Develop a plan of attack for paying down your debt. Create a list of all your debts not including your mortgage. If you have three credit cards, all with a balance, list them. Preet suggests paying them off one at a time. You may want to start with the one with the highest interest rate first.


4. Read the fine print

This is the part of the contract that contain the clauses that come back to bite you later. Never sign anything at your front door the first time you meet someone, and never sign anything you don’t understand. If necessary, take the contract, read it and, if it’s satisfactory, sign it later. Don’t feel pressured to sign it right away.

Preet gave the example of a friend of a friend who had both private insurance and mortgage life insurance. He died over the holiday season in a snowmobiling accident. He had a trace of alcohol in his system. The private insurance delivered a cheque in two weeks. The mortgage insurance claim was denied because one of the exclusions listed in the policy was that coverage would be denied if the insurer died in a motorized accident with alcohol present in the bloodstream. How many people would buy life insurance from a provider that didn’t even determine if you qualified for coverage until after you died?


5. Delayed consumption

I’ll give only one example from the book, but it’s a good one. Suppose you want to buy a $30,000 car. But you don’t have $30,000 sitting around so you decide to finance it over 7-years at 4%. You’ll end up paying $410.06 per month for a total of $34,445.04. Now say you put $410.06 in the bank at a measly 1.5% before purchasing. It would grow to $30,000 in less than six years (70 months) and you would only have to put away $28,724.19 (because of the interest you earned). You've saved nearly $6,000 and over a year of payments!

That’s the advantage of saving ahead of time for purchases instead of financing them. You wind up saving money in the long run and it takes less time to pay for things. This applies to any big ticket item. Save first, buy later! (Or buy something less expensive).


I’m going to skip Part 2 of the book. It just talks a bit about investing (Investing Basics and Financial Advisors); and goes into more detail about insurance (Insurance 101). The important stuff is in Part 1. Put it into practice and you’ll be well on your way to financial success.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Dinner with Gabe and Keith

I met up with Keith and Gabe for dinner on Saturday. We went to a Korean restaurant called Nak Won on Yonge south of Finch. It's not new, but it was our first time there.

I picked Gabe up on the way up from my place. We met Keith there. He was a bit late because traffic was slow because of the fair amount of snow we received that day.

While we were waiting, Gabe and I ordered first. He had some sort of soup with tuna. I ordered a tasty beef dish served on a hot plate with a bowl of rice. I can't remember what it was called. When Keith arrived he had pork bone soup which he said had a bit too much pepper. Besides that it was quite good.

Afterwards we met the girls down the street at Sugar Marmalade for dessert. Emily and Janice had had dinner beforehand at Cluny in the Distillery District for Winterlicious. Fiona came on her own. One last meet up before heading to Vancouver for a spell for work.

It was nice to see everyone again. We don't do as many activities in the winter, only gathering to eat every now and then.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Chef of India

I had lunch at Chef of India with my friend on Saturday. It's been a little while since we've gone. I'm not exactly sure why. I suspect I just never thought about going for awhile. Normally, for all-you-can-eat, I like sushi restaurants. But, the Chef of India is relatively inexpensive and it's right across the street from where I live. So it's really convenient.

We arrived a little later than planned. I was hoping to get there by 1:00 p.m. in order to get relatively fresh food. I'm guessing it's busier in and around that time so the food turnover is faster. When things slow down the food sits around in the heating trays longer because less people are there to eat it.

I have to say, I know just about nothing concerning Indian food. Even with the names of the dishes posted above the trays of food I wouldn't know one thing from the next. That being said, I normally try a little of everything. If I like something I'll go back for seconds. That's how it works with me.

So, I have no idea what I ate, only that I liked it. And, in the grand scheme of things, that's all that matters, isn't it?

Monday, February 2, 2015

John's Italian Caffe

I finally went to John's Italian Caffe for dinner. It's a small restaurant located near my church on Baldwin and Beverley streets. It actually was my third attempt at going there. I had bought a Groupon early last year and in the summer was planning on going down with one of my friends. Only, on my way down, realized I double-booked forgetting a volunteer session at the Scott Mission.

The next time I tried going was only a few days before the Groupon expired. It was on a Sunday after church. I went by only to read a handwritten note taped to the restaurant window informing patrons that they were closed on Sundays and Mondays during the winter.

I finally made it out the following Thursday evening - two days before they Groupon was due to expire. Though I ended up going by myself because of the inclement weather. My other friend who I had made plans on going with didn't want to drive through the slippery snow that we received during the day.

The Groupon was valued at $30. I figured I wouldn't have much of a problem spending all of it there since the food there was priced slightly above average. Originally I had planned on getting an entrée followed by dessert and a coffee. But the waitress told me that the Groupon was only good for food and not drinks (any kind of drink).

So I ordered a bowl of minestrone soup ($6) as an appetizer and chicken parmesan ($16) which came with a side of penne with tomato sauce for the main course. I followed up with their tiramisu ($6.75) for dessert.

All the food was very good. I really enjoyed it. Though it was a bit boring eating by myself. The total bill only came to $28.75 which left me $1.25 short. I guess their computer or whatever wouldn't accept the Groupon unless I spent a minimum of $30, so the waitress sold me a small jar of hot peppers in olive oil for $5 more to bring the total to $33.75.

She assured me they weren't too spicy because I told her I couldn't really eat spicy stuff. I was hoping she could have just charged me an extra $1.25 for nothing and we would be all square. Anyway, it didn't really matter.