Comfort zone and New Year’s Resolutions

I made three New Year’s Resolutions this year to myself. One was to keep active according to the active time recommended by my health apps (no sweat, seriously, which means I should look into upping the challenge levels). The other was to go through my stash of Big Bad Wolf Sale books – this has been harder, because my attention span has shrunk over the last few years. I am getting there, somewhat.

The third, and one I thought I had in the bag, was a goal to write 2000 words a day. Now this may seem like a lot, but when you considered that I averaged around 1700 words a day during Nanowrimo, it looked like something I could do.

Erm… about 18 days into the New Year and to say I am failing epically is kind of a major understatement.

I feel like I need to mention a few qualifiers.

  1. I went into this challenge knowing and expecting that I would not be able to write 2000 words off the bat. That is a goal that would be nice but unrealistic. I instead aimed for at least 300 words a day, with a view to ramping it up as I hit it consistently.

  2. This would have covered everything non-work related, which includes this blog post you are now reading. So it was a fairly low bar to set in the first place.

So when I say that I am epically failing, I am, because even by this low bar I can’t seem to muster the discipline to do so.

Writing even twice a week and publishing a blog post is plenty enough, but the thing is it isn’t that I lack the material nor the skill, it’s that I lack the commitment to timeliness.

Which is why I am writing this, and why, hopefully, you will see a video at the top of this blog post later.

I am trying to document my adventures in writing using a medium I actually don’t really like (yes I am aware of how ridiculous it is).

I am basically videoing my attempts to write every day, with a view to recording the sound as ASMR type video.

Part of this is sheer spite – Google recently revamped their Youtube videos, and so I basically need to get about 4000 minutes of viewtime each month and then about 1k subscribers in order to be eligible for monetisation. So I’m creating short videos that hopefully won’t require too much editing.

Two is forcing myself to at least keep to a semblance of a routine. Something like this should not take me more than an hour or so at most, with the actual recording taking about 15-20 minutes. I foresee the biggest problem I’ll have is with editing sound – I would prefer to record this in Audacity before I merge them all in VideoPad, which is a software I will review.

Will this work? Will it fail? Who knows? At the very least I will be able to say at the end of the year that I tried.

And getting out of your comfort zone is never a bad thing.

[Quickie] Innisfree Christmas 2017 box

Innisfree Black Green Tea Mask and Innisfree Orchid Enriched Cream

Last December, I got tipped to one of the best deals I’ve seen on Innisfree products by Fiona. For RM120, you would get:

  • Green Tea Seed Serum (RRP: RM98)
  • Green Tea Sleeping Pack (RRP: RM58)
  • Green Tea Mineral Mist (RRP: RM22)
  • Orchid Enriched Cream (RRP: RM111)
  • Black Green-Tea Mask (RRP: RM111)

So that’s about RM400 worth of products for just RM120. Did I mention that everything here is full size and not those sample sizes? And because I made a purchase of at least RM120, they also threw in a Bija sample kit.

At first, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to get the kit, but a random conversation with Rin led me to my purchase because of the Orchid Enriched Cream (anti-aging). I was already on my last quarter bottle of the serum anyway, so that made two items I wanted to get.

I ended up using the Black Green Tea Mask and the Orchid Enriched Cream first before anything else (mom got the Green Tea Sleeping Pack as hers was running out). The online reviews for these two products vary between “Mreh” to “OMG THIS IS THE MOST AMAZING THING EVER” as beauty products tend to.

Impressions: Black Green Tea Mask

The Black Green Tea Mask is an interesting experience. According to the website, it contains 55% fermented Jeju green tea squeeze, obtained through fermentation and ripened by cedar. Supposedly, it is a great moisturiser and antioxidant.

I wasn’t sure what to expect with this, except it was surprisingly strong on the tea scent. It was very calming and gentle on my skin. You will know when it’s on your skin, as it has a somewhat heavy feel to me, but once the absorption process begins it’s gone.

So I tried this twice, once following the instructions aka cleansing and toning before masking, and the other as an in-shower mask as recommended by Kathy of Your Seoul Key. The first time, it was fairly heavy on my skin, but the cleansing process left my face looking fresher and calmer.

The second time, my face felt much softer. It also felt that I didn’t need as much as the first time, probably because my face was a bit more moist and the mask could be spread much more easily. Interestingly enough, the shine on my face had cooled down quite a bit (there was much more during my first trial two days before this) but it seemed that I could see more uneven skin tone (or could just be the lighting from the computer).

Either way, the mask is a really great step if you want a luxurious and relaxing spa-at home session. I love it for this alone.

Impressions: Orchid Enriched Cream

This cream is… heavy. It also takes quite a bit of time to be absorbed into my skin. In case you’re wondering, this is no mean feat considering my skin tends to absorb almost everything in a matter of seconds rather than minutes. Also, my forehead becomes super shiny but my cheeks are ok.

The Orchid Enriched Cream works better as a night cream for me, though the worrying part is that I can feel it itching around the edges of my face. This usually indicates a skin reaction, but I’m going to trial this for two weeks as I’m coming off the part of my cycle where my skin usually breaks out anyway, so we’ll see.

Was this a good buy? Yes! Will I end up repurchasing? Check back in one year. :P

Implementing SSL for WordPress on Exabytes

Fixing SSL WordPress issues featured image. Original by Ilya Pavlov

Back in April 2017, Exabytes announced that they were going to provide free SSL certs for all those on the Shared Linux Hosting plan. In May I activated it, but it was only recently that I realised my site was not redirecting by default to the https version.

Turns out I missed two key steps.

The first is relatively easy to do for most WordPress admins and should not harm your site. It’s basically:

  1. In your WordPress dashboard, go to Settings > General (usually on the left sidebar).
  2. Under the WordPress Address (URL) and Site Address (URL), add a “s” to the http, so it will be https://WHATEVERYOURDOMAIN.IS
  3. Save and you’re done here.

The 4th step requires adding several lines of code to your htaccess file. This file is a configuration file for servers running Apache Web. As a general rule, it’s always a good idea to download a copy of it to your hard drive and/or copy it somewhere on your web server before making any changes to it.

Now, the Exabytes support site says to add the following code to your .htaccess file:


[IfModule mod_rewrite.c]
RewriteEngine On
RewriteCond %{SERVER_PORT} 80
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ https://www.WHATEVERYOURDOMAIN.IS/$1 [R,L]

If you’re having trouble with that, then you might want to give my method a try. It’s quite simple really.

Just add this to the first line of your htaccess file:

RewriteEngine On
RewriteCond %{SERVER_PORT} 80
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ https://www.WHATEVERYOURDOMAIN.IS/$1 [R,L]

So if your file has code in it and looks something like this:

BEGIN W3TC Browser Cache


AddType text/css .css

Just add the rewrite code above so it will look like:


RewriteEngine On
RewriteCond %{SERVER_PORT} 80
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ https://www.WHATEVERYOURDOMAIN.IS/$1 [R,L]

BEGIN W3TC Browser Cache


AddType text/css .css

Then save and either clear your cache or test the URL in a private browser. It should default to https:// with a Secure notice (if you are in Chrome). Special thanks to Razier for helping me figure this out.

So Long, 2017!

Wow.

Didn’t expect December to sneak up on me so fast.

Sorry this blog has been so inactive the past few months. I’ve not updated it for a variety of reasons, but the chief is mainly lack of energy and inspiration, plus battling with the feeling that my screams were going into the void.

As funny as it may seem, a combination of Nanowrimo, low self-esteem at work and trying to journal every day via WriteADay (which has failed whenever I am at home and have access to GDocs and am too lazy to look at phone) has basically encouraged me to write.

In terms of setting down hours to write.

I noticed I now have short spurts where I feel I need to be writing. Not necessarily creating, because that word means a completely different thing to me, but just to be putting down words.

And that digressed pretty wildly.

So I’m writing this just to mention a few things:

Blog updates

  • RSS Feeds:
    I’m killing Feedburner. It’s long overdue; I’ve been putting it off simply because Feedburner itself is still running.

    • Subscribed via RSS readers and/or browsers: If you’ve subscribed anytime before today (4 December, 2017) via your browser’s services I think you should be fine.
    • Email subscribers: You’ll need to re-subscribe, sorry! I’ve got a widget in the sidebar for it.
  • Changed themes: Mainly due to previous theme somehow ending up switching my “Previous Posts” page with the RSS feed page from Feedburner (which is also why it has been removed). This theme is much simpler and cleaner, I hope.

  • More postings? Probably. The biggest obstacle I have to overcome is the inertia to write and publish. It’s been… weird and sad to say the least.

Life updates

This year has been fairly interesting. A few notable milestones:

  • Finances
    I bit the bullet and dug deep into one of my emergencies fund to clear off my credit card debts. My study loan too, should be repaid in full by the end of the month. This means that in January, I should be hopefully only be saddled by long-term debt aka my housing and car loans.

  • Shopping
    I admit I bought a lot of things this year. Unlike previous years though, I don’t think I went that crazy, but among the noticeable purchases were:

    • Bought a new car, because my old one was condemned and my brother wanted his MyVi back.
    • New HP – I got the Galaxy Note FE (aka the Note 7) which was also one of the reasons why I decided to simply clear off all my credit card debts.
    • Bought a new monitor too, to replace the one my brother lent me all those years ago. I consider this payback for having to deal with his crazy ex.
  • Health
    This year has been about recovery. Refilling the creative well. While I’d like to think I’ve been fairly successful, a few things have stood out:

    • End of year slump
      Towards the last quarter of the year, I often get itchy butt syndrome. I notice this is also accompanied by a dip in productivity and errors made.

    • Return of the viral fever
      I had viral fever earlier this year. Took me out for almost a week. To top it off, I also had rashes at the end of the the fever. The itch was really bad and annoying because why in the world did I get rashes after the fact?

    • Hello weight gain
      I have stopped running for the past few years and suddenly I’m larger than I’m used to (gone from a size XS/S to a M/L depending on the cutting). While I like the size of my boobs, the fat around my waist has me worried, so I will probably take up Pokemon Go as an excuse to walk and exercise more outside of mall running (I work in a mall now, window shopping is a legitimate exercise).

What’s next in 2018?

My wishes are simple: more cash (period, I just want more money) and healthier lifestyle.

My goals on the other hand, have nothing to do with my wishes (ha!). All I wanna do is write the two stories I have bouncing around in my head and sell some more to others. Simple, aren’t they?

The voice in my head is laughing at me, in case you were wondering.

Have a good 2018 everyone!

[rant] urgh Gardenscapes why

Gardenscapes header

So I love Gardenscapes. Made by the people at Playrix, it’s essentially a match-3 game that has a lovely story attached to it, filled with characters that come to life through the things you do in-game. I’ve reached puzzle 1324, which is not too bad since I started playing this game almost a year ago.

The person who takes you through Gardenscapes’ main story is your butler Austin. Yes, your butler, though from the way he orders you around I kind of doubt that. He comes across as a somewhat enthusiastic and friendly chap at first glance.

However, as I play the game more, I’m discovering inconsistencies with his character. I’m not sure if it’s lazy writing or a suspension of disbelief, but there are some things he’s done recently that make me wonder if the writers actually thought things through.

About 300-400 puzzles ago (I think it was then), Austin asked his friend to Robbie (who happens to be black) to help fix the bridges in the garden.

Robbie says that he can’t as he has too many orders for the day and that he could do it tomorrow, but Austin forces him to anyway. Robbie quickly comes over and does a quick job and then has to rush off.

The bridge falls apart later, turning Austin indignant, who believes Robbie had endangered Austin’s potential love interest. Austin goes into a fit, says some mean things to Robbie, and then more or less sulks. When the truth comes to light, Austin “apologises” to Robbie by buying an expensive tool he knew Robbie was eyeing.

Now, here’s the thing that pissed me off. From what I can see, Robbie did the best he could with the bridge, given the time constraints that he had. When it fell apart, it had nothing to do with his skills (beavers are to blame). But he gets the blame anyway.

There’s also the fact that nowhere does Austin acknowledge that he emotionally blackmailed Robbie. Nor does Austin, at any point, directly apologise to Robbie for blaming him falsely.

It feels a lot like Austin is taking advantage of his privilege as a white man, even if he isn’t aware of it. He seems to take most others for granted and his interactions with the few people of colour in the game is subtly different compared from the others we see as white. His “apology” took for granted that Robbie would forgive him, would always forgive him.

Which brings me to the current storyline.

[DETAILED SPOILERS AHEAD]

Alex is an intern at a cleaning company. She’s to help Austin clean the garden. During the cleaning process, they uncover gorgeous ballgowns and learn that that part of the garden is suitable for hosting parties.

Austin decides that the ballgowns are no longer needed and should be sent to a museum, since they’re early 1900s (maybe?) pieces, and in really good condition. Alex, who had been hoping to dress up in said gowns, is disappointed, but she can’t really ask Austin to give the dresses to her. Who is she anyway?

During this plotline, we see that Alex is an enthusiastic, well-meaning girl who is a real romantic. She’s so romantic, that when a random person comes up asking Austin for help with his wedding car, she takes it upon herself to decorate the car. Alone.

So, we’ve established she’s a romantic. She’s good with wedding stuff. And she loves music and to dance.

What happens?

Alex sends the ballgowns to the museum on behalf of Austin. That night, the player and Austin are awoken in the middle of the night by a mysterious sound and subsequently a figure that runs through the garden to escape them. This figure tracks mud all over the garden including areas you, the player, have already fixed.

Oddly, while Austin is alarmed, he doesn’t seem as spooked or angry or surprised. This is odd, considering how he panicked earlier in the game to the point he insisted on getting a dog.

The next day, as they are cleaning up, we discover that the intruder was Alex. She had taken one of the gowns for herself and decided to have a little midnight dance.

Her uncle/family decided to punish her (at least from what we see in the game) by making her clean a spooky old basement filled with spiders and other creepy crawlies. What is Austin’s reaction?

“Oh no, we must help her! Let us ask this other guy who is handy with vacuums to give her one as she asked so she can finish her job quicker.”

The thieving model with her sculptor takes a break
More or less. Alex is thus freed to “model” for the sculptor, who is recreating the romantic story that led to the ballgown’s discovery earlier.

Throughout it all, Austin’s reaction to Alex breaking his trust and stealing from the player has been sympathetic and forgiving. In fact, he never brings up the point that she abused his trust and/or she had stolen things but instead helps her to finish her punishment quicker.

It seems Austin is so desperate to win the approval of the eligible females in the game that he doesn’t just overlook their horrendous behaviour, he encourages it. I’m terribly disappointed with Playrix because they had started so well with the game’s earliest chapters.

Well that's nice of Austin
Contrast this to the way he treated Robbie. To say that he threw Robbie under the bus without even apologising is a major understatement. Heck, even when Claire couldn’t make it he is nicer to her than he was to Robbie!

Really Playrix, you can and should do better. Gardenscapes is a really fun game and I like the touches you’ve added to the match-3 component. I like the characters. What I don’t like is your lazy writing; glorifying Alex’s criminal transgressions while making light of the hard work like Robbie does.