[Quick update]

Temporary feather quill tattoo hidden by my watch strap and mi band

This month has been crazier than usual.

The way my schedule is setup, I just don’t have enough focus to write. Note that it’s not the time to write, it’s the focus. For some reason, this year is extremely draining. I can kind of guess where my time has gone, and while it’s not a bad thing, it’s not a completely good thing either.

So exactly how is Nanowrimo going, you may ask?

Not very good hahaha. I’m far more behind in my wordcount for the first time in years. Week Two is kicking my ass, but it’s not so much the week that is kicking me, as it is the energy required. Freelance today is also driving me nuts, though not in the way I expected.

I admit that right now, I feel like Slyvia Plath’s The Fig Tree. (Link leads to a Zenpencils comic, by the way).

There are a bunch of contests and writing places I can submit to, but there’s only so much of me that I can focus on. Do I do this, or do I drop it and do the thing that’s much more interesting? But then there’s also that other thing! And ah, I want to submit a story for that too!

So yes, my focus is distracted and all over the place. Everything is new again, everything is fun again, but do I really have the strength for it all?

The short and true answer is, no.

And so, I have to learn a new habit: Self-reflection and determination on what I can do.

Also, in case you were wondering, in the days since my BAH articles, I’ve managed to create and keep two simple habits that eluded me for the longest time:

Making my bed (current unbroken streak: 30 days) and drinking water when I get up (generally 5 out of 7 days a week).

And while we’re at it, Inktober helped cultivate a habit of creating/writing a day, and so now I have an unexpected problem: I can’t write and socialise like I used to do in previous Nanowrimos. My attention span is much shorter, but the ideas, when they come, are far more intense and full-fledged. Now I have to figure out how to take advantage of them.

[BAH] Drawing with a Mars Bars

Creativity’s one of the hardest habits to get into, and sometimes all you need is a challenge. The Magical Mars Bars, aka Kimmy, talks about getting into the habit of drawing again and the #ramadhansketchchallenge2015.

Meet the artist!

Q: Tell us a bit about yourself.
Hey, I’m Kimmy, more often known as MagicalMarsBars or Kimmouto. I’m eighteen this year and I’ve always very much been immersed in arts, be it acting, drawing, dancing, taking photos or writing. Could call it a way of life, I guess. Does that sound pretentious? I hope not… 🙁 Editor’s note: Nope, it doesn’t sound pretentious at all.

Q: So, what’s your sketchy history about?
I’ve always kind of enjoyed drawing, but I was never too good at it. When I entered secondary school two of my closest friends happened to be rather artistically talented, so I guess you could say I tried my best to get to their level. Being a typical SEA kid, I grew up with ACG and had a very Japanese animation-influenced style of art, but once I left high school I became much more interested in a broader sense of art, not just anime but realism, line art, pointillism and just about everything else.

Q: Your drawings are pretty good! How did the drawing break happen?
I’ve always been extremely sporadic with drawing, usually due to procrastination and low self esteem. As soon as I was met with a challenge I would lose the drive to draw. It took me awhile to realise you can’t improve without practise. Sounds logical, but people always find excuses to not do things they’re afraid of (or is it just me?).

Day 2 Flag atop a burger

Q: What’s your drawing routine like now?
Now I make it a point to draw whenever I feel bored or like I’m wasting my time, but I usually end up drawing in the evening or if I’ve classes at night then right after that. It’s probably not healthy but I usually end up forgetting the time and sleeping after 2AM.

Q: How has the #ramadhansketchchallenge2015 been treating you so far? I see it’s made you break your drawing fast. /runs
Oh it’s been tough! The first and second week will make you feel like you’re incredibly capable, but the third and fourth is the devil. It’s also made me much more open to making mistakes, so for that I’m glad!

Q: Why drawing?
I am by nature a fairly visual creature, and I’ve been doodling all my life – no real reason why; just feels right! Drawing to me is like meditating. I don’t think when I draw, and as someone who’s constantly thinking, it’s a very welcome feeling.

Thank you for your time. Check out Kimmy’s sketches here on Instagram!

[BAH] Gaming your procrastination habit

A shocked Scottish Fold kitty representing Kyp Lim
A shocked Scottish Fold kitty representing Kyp Lim

Kyp Lim is a scientifikitty, based in Perth. He’s very fluffy, as evidenced by his Steam gamer ID of crazysheep_. However, he’s also got a chronic problem with procrastination. So to combat one aspect of his procrastination, he started livestreaming his games. This is his walkthrough.

Q: Tell us a bit about yourself.
A: I’m a hooman Purr purr.

Q: At least tell us what kind of kitty you are. -_-
A: A cute little Scottish Fold.

Q: So tell us a bit about your gaming history.
A: Well, I started gaming when we got our first PC, and it’s pretty much only intensified ever since. I cut my teeth on early Command and Conquer games, continued into more games from the RTS genre, and then segued into DotA quite some time later. Meanwhile regular Steam sales exposed me to many, many other fun games… which brings us to this discussion here, I guess.

Kitty's Gaming Library
Kitty’s Gaming Library

Q: When did you realise you had a gaming problem?
A: I-It’s not a p-problem- coughs nervously Well, I guess it’s more of a digital dust collection thing, similar to book collections. The kind where you buy cheap, promising books in bulk from warehouse sales and never touch more than half of them. It’s a similar thing with my games – I look at my Steam library and realise that I haven’t touched… probably two-thirds of them, having invested money and hard disc space on them?

Q: Why livestreaming?
A: Funny story, this. It actually started off as a challenge on Twitter – I don’t remember the specifics now – except that one day, three poor souls decided to make Twitch accounts and do a livestream each. I liked the initial experience of just showing off my playstyle and however bad it might be, so I made it a point to stream regularly from then on.

When I completed my XCOM achievements, and was looking for a new game to fill the livestreaming void, I realised that I could try and finish my game collection by playing it on air, so that I’d kill two birds with one stone: chew through my game collection while showing off different games (and hopefully drag in some viewers while I’m at it).

Q: How is it going so far?
A: So far so good, I guess. I can’t really tell, partly because I haven’t compared my progress with others, nor found any yardstick to figure out how I’m doing.

Q: How long has it been since you’ve started, and how many games have you attempted (and finished!)?
A: I think it’s about nine months since I started, I might be wrong on this. In that time, I’ve cleared three games, and I’m currently making good progress on two others. At this rate, I might finish in… ten years, I think? I haven’t really given that much thought. What matters to me now is that I’m actually making progress on clearing out my game backlog.

Q: What have you been playing?
A: Whatever looks the most fun in my library. Right now, that honour is shared between Spec Ops: The Line and Prison Architect. (Writer’s note: Prison Architect’s on Wednesday nights, UTC +8, and Spec Ops’ on weekends, same timezone)

Q: Have you ever abandoned a game?
A: So far, not yet. Fingers crossed it’ll stay that way.

Q: Ever fallen off the wagon? What did you do to get back up?
A: Since instituting the livestreaming schedule, I haven’t fallen off the wagon yet, some sort of devotion to the viewers, if I may say so. There was a brief interruption around February when we were in the process of switching internet providers, but other than that I haven’t abandoned the plan.

Q: Any advice for those attempting to tackle their gaming procrastination?
A: Perseverance will get you over the line, wherever that may be 😛

Thank you for your time. Catch Kitty gaming his procrastination habit here!

[BAH] Vaping With ShatteredSword

Paul's profile pic taken from his G+ with permission

Paul, aka ShatteredSword in Ingress, is a huge wrestling fan, an awesome cook, and an avid collector of fountain pens and an strong advocate of wetshaving. He’s also quite methodical and detailed, and knows the back of UPM like no one else (except students!). This year, Paul switched from cancer sticks to vaping. Here’s his story.

Q: Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m a 41 year old Malaysian Indian guy with 2 lovely (and mischievous!) daughters. I run my own consulting and training company dealing mainly with Innovation and Intellectual Property. I love reading and tinkering around with Gundams and other plastic models whenever I find the time to do so.

Q: Tell us about your smokin’ history.
I started smoking during college days, around the time when I was 19. I quit the very same year and started smoking again 5 years later. I am 41 years old now and thus, have been smoking for 17 years.

Q: Tell us about your previous attempts to quit.
This is probably the 3rd or 4th attempt at quitting. Every other time I tried to quit via cold turkey. While it did work the first time around, the other attempts were not successful at all.

Q: How did you get started on vaping?
I came across the idea of using vaping (electronic cigarettes) when I stumbled across a post on Reddit. Someone shared his story about how by using electronic cigarettes, (that’s a very inaccurate way to call the device btw) he managed to stay away from normal cigarettes for 2 years. So I did some investigating, got myself a starter kit and trampled what was left of my normal cigarettes in a car park in 1Utama and never looked back.

Q: You mentioned that you planned to quit smoking completely, and that vaping was part of the plan. How far along are you? (Yes I know it sounds like you’re pregnant).
At the time of writing this, I have not smoked a cigarette for 89 95 days (Ed’s note: on day of publishing). I’ve been vaping e-liquids which contain 6mg of nicotine at the moment and there is a plan to quit everything, even vaping by next year.

E-Cigarette/Electronic Cigarette/E-Cigs/E-Liquid/Vaping/Stop Smoking/Quit Smoking
E-Cigarette/Electronic Cigarette/E-Cigs/E-Liquid/Vaping/Stop Smoking/Quit Smoking by Vaping360, on Flickr

Q: Walk us through a day with vaping and another with cigarettes.
Typically when I was smoking I would finish about 10 sticks in a day. These days I vape whenever necessary. A 30 ml bottle of e liquid lasts about a week for me. In terms of price I’d say I’m spending half the amount that I used to spend on cigarettes.

Q: Do you ever miss cigarettes?
To be brutally honest, I did. Especially in the second week. But I persisted and these days the very smell of cigarettes make me sick. (editor’s note: That’s quite a change!)

Q: What’s your current favourite flavour?
Rootbeer Float! To add a side note, most people who are coming off cigarettes tend to want a tobacco flavoured e liquid to vape on. At least that’s what their minds would be telling them. But, it’s advisable to go with a fruit/beverage or even dessert flavoured e liquids to help with the transition as your taste buds will improve the longer that you’ve been off cigarettes.

Image of a Vanilla Kola canister

Q: They say if you quit, you get your sense of taste back. Is that really the case?
Yes you do. Its not something imagined or psychological in nature. There is a tangible difference in taste and smell. Which is a good thing for me as I cook. (Editor’s note: I can attest to this! His food is yummy!)

Q: What’s your advice for those thinking of switching from cigarettes to vaping in Malaysia?
Read up on every bit of information that you can before making the switch. Reddit’s r/electronic_cigarette is a great place to start! (read the sidebar first!)

Find a good place that offers you proper advice without putting profits before wanting YOU to stop smoking (impossible, I know). To this end however, I am willing to share advice at no cost. Details on how to reach me will be provided shortly.*

Thank you for your time.

  • If you are on Ingress, just ping @ShatteredSword on the general comm. xD

[BAH] Maria Meets Cetrizine

Maria Neige is the first guest of this series. She’s someone I admire greatly, for when she puts her mind to something, nothing can stop her. In this case, May (as we call her) was relying very heavily on the antihistamine cetrizine, which in turn, caused unexpected issues. I’ll let her tell you her story.

A derpy dog photo taken in 2012
A derpy dog photo taken in 2012

Q: Tell us a bit about yourself.
I like derpy dogs, fat fluffy cats, and beautiful things. I also believe that Hikaru Midorikawa’s voice is a national treasure of Japan.

Q: How did you get started with cetrizine? What was the reason you started taking it?
I was prescribed cetrizine by two of my uncles (They are a GP and a skin specialist respectively). My dad’s side of the family is well known for having bad skin problems, and allergies to godknowsanythinginthisworld was common among us. Yours truly inherited those problematic genes. It was touted as a milder anti-histamine that could be taken daily, unlike piriton which really knocks you out completely after taking it…

Previously, there were some allergic reactions towards some medication, once I have IDed what not to touch, they did not appear at all (the intensity of the allergies scared the living daylights out of my GP though.)

Things changed when I started my tertiary studies. A month into the course, I had constant allergy flare ups for absolutely no identifiable reason. My parents freaked out (naturally) and we had a ball of a time identifying what could be the trigger. It ranged from the new joss sticks that we bought for prayers, to Walls’ ice cream (My cousin had a similar case, where she couldn’t eat local ice cream brands due to allergic reactions, but Baskin Robbins or NZ Ice Cream? Totally fine!) andddd to the automatic room spray in my college.

Consulting my uncles, who revealed that the constant flare ups for no reason were common among our side of the family, and proceeded to prescribe me a year supply of cetirizine.

My dad had this issue when he was younger and he reminds me that during his time, there’s no such thing as cetrizine so that became one of my motivations to get off cetrizine. Hey if he can do it, so can I!

Q: How long did you take it? Were there any positive effects?
Initially after a few months of taking it sporadically, the flare ups stopped for a year. Come December 2012….the flare ups returned with a vengeance. I started taking the pills and thought after taking it for a month or so, things would be alright. End result: I was reliant on cetrizine for the next two years – until early June 2015.

Image by Danny S from Wikimedia
Image by Danny S from Wikimedia

Q: Walk us through a day (then) with and without cetrizine.
Without cetrizine: Imagine a day where you feel your body burning up for no reason, and lets not forget constant moving itches at various parts of your body including the unmentionables and the scalp. Initially you will feel irritated, and cranky.

2 to 3 hours later? You will want to curl up in a bathtub of cold water and scream at the unfairness of everything in life for the rest of the day.

With cetrizine: Words cannot describe the feeling of a body functioning normally. I have noted that I do feel listless and slightly zonked out, but during that period I felt like life was beating me up constantly.

Q: What made you decide to stop?
I have been told repeatedly by my mum to go cold turkey from cetrizine, despite assurance from doctors that taking it regularly has no lasting side effect.

Early May, I belatedly realised that I stopped taking cetrizine for three days as it was the last thing on my mind due to certain circumstances at work and life. The aftermath not taking the medication for three days was the standard itching and appearances of tiny clusters of hives, but somehow this time around there was insomnia. As a person who usually survives on a minimum of 7 hours sleep a day, sleeping for only 2-3 hours was absolute torture. Throw in a complete loss of confidence due to work/life/stress imbalance not so recently and a wonky aircond that was blowing hot air made the insomnia worse – this was a wake up call that I needed to change my lifestyle before I end up in a deeper hole that I can’t climb out from.

Logically thinking over it, I can’t be constantly allergic all the time. Many who have known me for some time have mentioned that my stressful and rushed lifestyle could be a contributing factor to the flare ups. Looking back, December 2012 was the beginning of a notoriously stressful professional course and I constantly felt enraged and tired about almost everything in my life.

I immediately started to check if there’s side effects after stopping to take cetrizine, and I was shocked to find out after running a Google search, the first few results were the Consumer Complaints website and 99% of the complainants had the same symptoms I had.

Then it went on to blogs documenting the side effects of cetrizine, and there were some blogs that kept track about their journey to go cold turkey from cetrizine, which helped my resolve to completely go cold turkey.

However it was a relief to know that I wasn’t suffering alone and there were others who had the same symptoms that I had after going on a course of cetrizine?

(To be honest, I do regret spooking myself by reading those blogs about cetrizine side effects, because they kept mentioning histamine intolerance, which did match my symptoms of allergic flare ups. The proposed diet was….no. It just didn’t make any sense at all.)

Q: What were the common symptoms you had with cetrizine?
The flare ups usually will consist of the following : Annoying itches especially at the unmentionables and the scalp, clusters of tiny hives appearing and vanishing after an hour or so only to reappear at another spot, and lastly it had evolved into causing insomnia. My body felt like it was burning up when the symptoms appeared. I discounted fatigue which many had complained about as well since I was always tired and cranky due to work.

Q: Did you have an action plan for quitting? Were there any preparations you made?
I just grabbed all the cetrizine foils from my room and threw them back to the medicine drawer. The game plan was endurance.

I did keep a small tab in my handbag in case things get out of hand – the worst case scenario was that eventually after not taking the medication, a splotchy red world map would appear on every imaginable location on the surface of skin, which means that I’m fucked and definitely allergic to something. Did I mention it comes with unimaginable itchiness as well?

I had that once when I was young, and it was not an experience I want to go through again.

Taking yoga classes helped as well, I like to think that the blood flowing around my body alleviated the symptoms.

Q: What was the first day like, when you decided to completely quit?
I didn’t plan to quit entirely until after three days of absolute torture from sleep deprivation. After checking out the blogs and medical feedback forums, which was about the fourth day or so, I decided to go cold turkey.

Somehow I managed to get through a hectic day at work (I made sure I clocked out on time, instead of staying back to clear that never ending pile of work) and went back and plugged on ambient music until I felt sleepy. The irritating itchiness didn’t bother me, not when I was focused on making sure the figures on the spreadsheet had to tally with another source of figures provided by my client. It also helped that I was concentrating to not break down at work from the additional stress the insomnia was causing, and I like to think drinking lots of water helped cool my body down from the burning up sensation that appeared along with the itchiness.

How did I feel? Absolutely rotten, but I kept telling myself that better now than later.

Q: Cetrizine has a reputation for causing extreme itchiness, among others, when you stop it. How did you make it through?
I work in an environment that raises blood pressure and eats newbies for breakfast. That was one major distraction, as the pressure is high to not to spectacularly screw up. I drank about 2.5 liters of water at work to cool down daily. Constant trips to the toilet from intense hydration was also an excuse to stretch out my legs.

When the eye itchiness phase kicked in, I took a cold compress and lightly pressed it on the affected area. I admit to rubbing my eyes a bit too frequently, but thank goodness it didn’t last long compared to other people’s experience.

It eventually petered out to very short periods of itchiness daily, which I could actually ignore instead of it being a thorn in my side.

Yoga by Dave Rosenblum, on Flickr

Q: Were there any other lifestyle changes you made?
I took up yoga. The doctor was saying that I needed to work out instead of sitting down in front of an electronic gadget 24/7. Next, on a whim, I decided to axe out drinking the teh ais and iced Milo at the kopitiams outside and stick to drinking water, and found that my complexion gotten better compared to the days where I used to stare in the mirror and sigh at impending acne outbreaks.

Q: What do you think was the best outcome you’ve had so far from quitting cetrizine?
I don’t feel beholden to a drug. I lived with the fear that I had to take cetrizine for the rest of my life to function. I am also glad that I don’t have to spend more money on cetrizine, for the long run they don’t come cheap, even if they are the generic variants.

Q: How many days since you quit?
One month and counting.

Thank you for your time.

Editor’s note: Have something to contribute or just want to share your story? Drop off your responses here!