Sunday, September 28, 2014

I. Hate. Being. Sick. Because it kind of sucks.

Lesson learned. Flu shots are a necessary must in life. :(

I have come to accept that me getting sick at least once or twice a year is a fact of my life. Well I say sick as if I mean it in conventional terms, but 75% of the time it's just me getting whooped hard for at least a few days due to my severe hay fever during seasonal periods and then again in winter due to a not-as-severe-but-still-serious allergy to dust.

The other 25% of the time, it's a cold. Which I often struggle to differentiate from my hay fever most of the time to be honest.

But somehow, unlike past years when the flu would pass over me with barely a sniffle, I caught the flu not once, but twice. And not the mild "you're feeling sick for a day or two and then you're over it" variety. Both in spring and this past month I caught the knock-you-out-vomiting-coughing-sore-muscles-want-to-die-because-it-is-preferable-to-this-suffering kind of flu.

Sometimes I wonder if Liz Lemon is an extension of my life.
I'm pretty unbearable as it is when allergies hit me. Guess my mood while I had the flu?

In short: IT SUCKED.

First, being sick threw my budgeting and meal plans into total chaos. Mostly because I could barely drag myself from bed and also because living with a roommate and my younger sister, I'm not exactly in a position to beg for them to care for me like I could my mother. Plus there was the whole nausea and vomiting that made eating food an exercise in "What doesn't make me feel sick"?

So I ate "out" and ordered in A LOT (every day basically for almost nine days) due to the pickiness of my digestive system while sick.

Then there's having to buy A LOT of flu medication. How much? Try $40ish dollars when it was all said and done (and yes, I bought brand name meds. Because the effectiveness of generic is not something I'm particularly interested in testing when feeling as if I want to die) and this was despite the fact I HAD cold and flu medication lying around my home from the last time I got sick with this earlier this year.

And yes, I'm partially to blame because I did skip last year's flu shot. But at the same time, I've skipped that thing for years with barely an issue several times in the past.

Maybe I'm just getting old.

It made me a grumpy panda for half of the month of September. And I had to cancel four separate appointments due to hacking up a lung.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Love my... light pink polishes by Julep!

This spring it is all about the pastels for me, with my latest wardrobe picks for work and play reflecting that sensibility.

I do have to be aware of avoiding pieces that washes me and my olive skin tone out, of which pastel pink is a huge culprit. And while I will plead guilty to owning a pair of pink skinny jeans (because they look so good with my navy blazer!) I generally avoid them in pieces that sit closer to my skin.

Except when it comes to nail polishes that is!

I'm hugely addicted to pastel pink nail polishes in the spring. I think it has to do with a general love for and affinity to the cherry blossom, which actually blooms around this time.

Unfortunately, I have had a terrible time trying to find the perfect pastel pink polish. I've tried Revlon and even China Glaze to no real success and some real disasters.

Part of the problem stems from my olive skin tone, in that the pink immediately is washed out by the skin colour that creeps through the nails and is even overpowered by the red in it. Which means that I need multiple layers rather than the one or two that I generally have patience for - somewhere in the range of four or five that will allow for the colour to come through and look like I painted my nails.

Julep's 'Grace'
Classic 'go-to' light pink sheer
But there is an inherent danger to having more than a few layers - the more polish on a nail, the tackier the polish gets and therefore the longer it takes to dry. In the case of China Glaze, after the third helping, the thing never did harden and I had to pull it off in horrible gloops.

But then I discovered Julep and immediately fell in love with their shades. For one, it is really fast drying so even as the layers start to pile on, it doesn't have the same amount of tackiness that I felt when using Revlon or China Glaze. And it goes on really easily so it really minimizes the mess and the time spent (or wasted) on applying it.

'Grace' in particular needed around three layers for the colour to become adequately opaque on my nails and on the final round, a drop on each nail of quick-drying solution for the polish, a process that took up a solid hour or so of my night in order to give a little TLC to my nails.

But in the end, I thought it was well worth it. I loved how understated it appeared on my nails when I wore it and it was a really gentle colour too.

Julep's 'Lois'
Dusty rose frost
But 'Lois' I found only needed two layers for the 'pearl frosting' to come out and make the colour opaque against my skin. The reduced number of layering and the wonderful shade of the pink meant that only about a half hour was used to apply it, which would be great on nights when time isn't there to be wasted.

Julep does come with the inherent dangers of chipping easier than other polishes because of its fast-drying nature, but I counter it by applying a good base coat to my nails and in some cases - for a longer lasting hold, a top coat as well.

Two of their shades were perfect for my April and May. More than that though, the colour signifies happiness and the start of a new growing season, but it is also an amazingly gentle colour that is neither in your face or ostentatious like some of my other pastels.

It's very understated, which works amazingly at the place I work where bright nails are not among the most common things you see at the office. (And while it is not frowned upon it is most definitely something that is more open to discussing in the summer weather than in winter). It therefore works as the perfect transition colour for me.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Why I bought a Tide to Go pen...

 A few years ago, my mother bought me a Tide-to-go pen. Actually she bought me a few because she figured it's cheaper than doing laundry every other day for stuff that only needs spot treatment.

I thought it was pointless and a waste of money. Its an item that's full of chemicals that really shouldn't be allowed to be left on clothing, its effectiveness is definitely mixed and it smells awful. And then half the time, it creates another stain over the original stain!

I wouldn't recommend it as a solution to anyone. Just wash the clothes, I'd say.

And yet, here I am, having spent actual money on a new Tide-to-go pen a mere day ago, because one of my holdovers from my mother finally ran out of its magic serum and suddenly I was pining for my easy to reach Tide-to-go pen.

Ultimately I underestimated my laziness and my food preferences upon finding full time work. Because kids got nothing on me when it comes to stains.

I'm a messy eater and pretty careless too. At least once every time I eat out, a friend reacts to the fact that my long hair somehow finds its way in the bowl of miso soup. And I am known to splatter various juices and other things over myself despite care.

As a result, white is not a colour that I get along with when it comes to my clothing. Which is a real shame because white as well as pastels is a huge colour trend this year. And white is so easy to match in clothing. And I like white tops. 

But I tend to wreak havoc on my carefully selected outfits because, as it turns out, eating a hamburger while typing away at a desk is far messier than you'd otherwise expect.

And one too many times spent over a washroom sink scrubbing away at a particularly obvious stain on my white top had me buying into the magic of this pen, despite the price and the chemicals. The convenience is far too high and even if it doesn't fully make the stain disappear on my nice white shirt, it makes enough of it disappear where I don't feel like I'm wearing a really ugly broach in a weird spot on my body.

Proof of my bad consumer habits and me folding over to my own innate laziness.

But I'm seriously not about to stop eating ramen any time soon, so this will have to do until they create a fabric that repels stains.

And really, it's not ALL that bad. It is great for spot work and I've used it several times to great effect... but it depends on what you're washing. Ramen noodle soup is not one of the things it can make disappear though.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

The Bookworm: Year Zero by Rob Reid

Crossposted from Goodreads.

This book started out pretty promising, I thought. But somewhere along the way, it went pear-shaped.

Many people have either compared it to Hitchhikers or refused to, saying that such comparisons are extremely unfair to hold a contemporary novel up against a science-fiction legend. And while I agree with the latter, honestly even I upon completing the novel could not help but sit there and wonder if I had read a rip-off of Hitchhikers.

I guess that is the inherent danger of writing a science-fiction comedy on the absurdity of human pettiness.

I originally picked up the book due to being intrigued by the concept that drove the story: Aliens owe the planet Earth the entire fortune of the universe. Also I found the prospective of learning about the inherent tragedies of copyright law from a music standpoint in a not-so-dry atmosphere to be palatable. All in all, it was enough that the book stuck in my head as a prospective reading choice, which therefore allow me to give it a fair shot.

And the opening felt promising. I found the dialogue to be pretty quirky, but not in a bad way and certainly enjoyed the pop-culture reference of every mid-2000s meme that existed.

But as the plot twisted sideways, I found that the story went the same way.

And that isn't to say a plot twisting sideways is a bad thing, but in this case, it seemed to just make the whole absurd story go from cute and funny to a case of "WTF just happened."

It was amazing how often the story got bogged down by either its technological mumbo-jumbo or else the copyright legalese involved. And while the author tried very hard to compensate for the overabundance of nonsense by adding humour to it as a means to make it less boring and more entertaining, the truth of the matter was that he tried entirely too hard to "fix" it, and therefore turning it into something that was less humourous and more obnoxious.

The footnotes didn't help either. Actually it made the whole thing far more tedious than it needed to be and basically hijacked the voice of the story from human cluelessness to a voice that was far too self-important given the current nature of the plot.

And WHAT was with that cat?

The thing that really annoyed me was how quickly things moved after the tedious middle part: too quickly if you ask me. Unbelievable as the story was to begin with, some of its solutions came about in a way that was unbelievable even within the context of the book's universe. Deus ex machina, anyone?

After all the fleshing out, it seemed as if the book decided it was in too deep and needed to wade back into shallower waters and ended up in the kiddie pool instead.

I will give credit to the penultimate solution to all our problems as I thought it was actually quite creative, but other than that, it fell flat when it needed to make its biggest impact. And while I enjoyed the humour and the pop-culture references enough that I'm willing to give it one more star than I gave Hitchhikers (which has it's own story to tell with regards to that rating), I can't say it's a book that I felt was more than the story.

It just fell flat of its intended goal.

Hate to say it, but Year Zero came off like a early-2000s boy band song: bland and commercialized.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Korean culture and the Sewol Ferry disaster

I am a Canadian.

I was born here, raised here and identify myself both with its geography and its culture, right down to the hockey-loving and beer-swilling (though with the addendum that I like the idea of beer-swilling. Being Asian gives me various biological disadvantages on that front)

But like many Canadians, I am not a native of this land. I am ethnically Korean, with two parents that immigrated here in the 70s and 80s. And with both my parents being first-gens meant that my upbringing was one that emphasized many traditional Korean values.

Which is why the news of the Sewol ferry disaster in Jindo in South Korea has struck a personal chord with me.

The ship took two and a half hours to fully capsize, although it appeared that the boat was nearly completely sideways after only an hour, with the final hour of the boat being in a position where rescue was realistically no longer possible or highly unlikely. So more or less, there was only an hour and a half of time between the accident originally taking place and the boat being no longer accessible to rescue operations for people to escape safely.

And yet, for about an hour, maybe more, the only instructions given on the ship was "put on life jackets and stay where you are."

There were 476 people on this vessel, most of them 16 and 17 year old teenagers from Danwon in Ansan. Only 174 people, including around 20 crew and the captain, made it out alive.

Of the 302 dead or presumed dead, most of them are children.

Some have said that Korean culture that prizes obedience in their youth was the reason why so few made it out of the ship alive, preferring to defer to the wisdom of their so-called elders who had told them to stay put and wait further instructions. Elders who turned out to be less than wise given that the captain literally was caught with his pants down during the sinking.

But let's not kid ourselves; the culture of obedience is not at fault here. Most children of that age regardless of culture, race or religion would have rather deferred to an announcement blaring instructions in that situation, simply because most kids would not know any better in that situation and therefore refer to the "experts" - the people whose job it is to know what to do in these kinds of emergencies.

Sure, perhaps in certain cultures some would question the authority more, but whether they'd act on it is a different matter entirely and for the most part would still defer such responsibilities to those who supposedly would know better.

In order to know better, it would mean children having been given instructions and knowledge on when to recognize when a ship is sinking and what to do in such an event. But since when do a parent or a child have to teach or have to learn what to do in the event of an emergency on a ship that is sinking, which is head to deck and once above deck put on a life jacket and hang on until rescue is available? Or at what point should it be obvious that a ship will sink, given that these people were not told that the ship was sinking, only that there was a dangerous situation going on, which can range from a serial killer on board to a fire in the kitchens.

And plus, it appeared that by the time it was obvious that things were in a truly dire state, for many, it was too late to get out.

You can't claim common sense here because honestly, these situations are not common. You can't expect the average person to know what to do any more than asking the average person to know how to build a fire from scratch. The onus of education is therefore on the crew, who ultimately did not offer such advise or knowledge on the Sewol.

By blaming the culture of how a child is raised, one blames the victims and their families, who have enough regrets as it is without the wider world asking if their cultural identity is what went wrong.

The only ones who deserves the blame are the people who first allowed the vessel to set sail without meeting minimum safety standards which caused the disaster to begin with and the incompetence of the crew who failed to order their passengers on deck and deploying lifeboats in that critical 40-60 minutes they had once they knew they were in trouble.

'Worried about people jumping in the unsafe water?' Gathering people on the deck hardly constitutes abandoning ship, only a call to prepare for such a possibility. And as some have pointed out, I'd rather take my chances surviving in those waters than being trapped below deck.

The crew should have known better and been trained for such possibilities. (Whether they have been given such training would fall under the fault of the company who hired them) Their failure to pass along such survival knowledge and instructions when they most needed it and instead providing information that likely doomed most of their passengers is what led to such a huge tragedy.

Most of the surviving crew is now in custody awaiting charges, with many Koreans angry enough at them to likely strangle them with their bare hands if they had half the chance. Because no Korean isn't affected by this in some way; those who have or had children can feel the parents grief, those who are young have lost their sense of invincibility, and every one wondering if they could have done something to have prevented this.