What happened to my June and July?!

Time pass by too quickly. I had a long list of writing projects to complete during the June and July break but only accomplished two 🙁

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I completed the grant application. This was quite an extensive writing project. I think it is pretty good. I hope the grant committee feels the same.

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I revised the manuscript by my masters student. It is now with the 3rd author for checking. I hope I can get it out this Wednesday.

I should get a draft of the paper on the equine-assisted learning project done before I leave for Melbourne. I hope to submit this by mid-September.

Then I have to revise the autism literature review paper by the end of August. I am not confident that I can revise it to a state that will satisfy the reviewers 🙁

Then there is that paper on special educators’ perspectives on evidence-based practices. Maybe that can go out in October? Sigh…

Reflecting on my budgies, TJ and Maxx

This is therapy: writing about the budgies as I deal with the loss of TJ.

In August 2013, when I had the birds for about 2 months, I described TJ as being unstable, would peck unexpectedly, would readily step on my finger even outside the cage, and would try food that I offer him. I described Maxx as cautious and loved to eat.

After having them for close to 3 years, their personalities have developed and are quite distinct.

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TJ

TJ was the leader. He was the bully. The skinnier flightless bird would boss the bigger bird around.

TJ was the touchable budgie. He would let me pat his belly and wing area. He loved to be scratched around his neck and head. I’ve forgotten that it took a long time before he would let me scratch him. He enjoyed bath-tub baths but only occasionally. He would swim like a duck in the plastic container of water. During shower baths, he would turn his back to me and face the wall instead. Sometimes when he hasn’t showered in a long time, he would climb to the top corner of the cage and wiggled his wings and fluffed out his feathers to get more of the water sprays. It was always so fun to see him do that.

Whenever I pulled out the box underneath their cage, TJ would be the one to climb down and eyed the contents of the box eagerly. If I pulled out the spray millet, he would go bonkers. He was always the more curious and cautious bird, always very observant.

TJ was not much of an eater. He was the pickier eater. It was harder to get him to try new food. He loved corn, oranges, apples, sweet beans, pea sprouts, broccoli, and seeds. He was the seed junkie.

TJ had a weaker beak so it was fun to play with him because his bites were not painful. Because he was flightless, he was also the one that depended on me more to bring him back up to the cage when he accidentally fell (or not-accidentally jump) off the cage to the floor.

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Maxx

Maxx is the bigger bird but tends to follow TJ’s lead. When TJ refused to try a new food, most of the time Maxx would not try as well. When TJ jumps from the cage to the ground, Maxx would usually follow.

Maxx loves to eat. In the evenings, he is the one who would be going up and down the cage to eat the seeds at the bottom of the cage. He would readily eat pellets, and probably could be converted to a pellet diet.

Maxx does not like bath-tub baths but is very agreeable to shower baths. He faces the water sprays and takes the direct hit.

Maxx is not a touchable budgie. He tolerates light pats on his beak and chest occasionally. No scratching allowed for Maxx. He has a strong bite but lately hasn’t bitten me to the point of pain. More like playful-but-don’t-push-it bites.

Maxx pees a lot. I was very worried about this for a long time. But then in January this year, when I brought TJ to see the Avian Specialist, and Maxx got a free consultation, the doctor said that birds do pee and that’s normal! I haven’t read a similar statement on the internet but since the doctor said so, I have been assured.

Maxx is a little less aware and tended to watch for TJ’s reaction to things before he reacted. In terms of things, TJ might be the one to approach new things first. Maxx is also more nervous and jumpy compared to TJ. But then Maxx was also the first one to climb up my shoulder and hand out there!

Maxx is a beautiful budgie. Very regal English-looking!

Getting to know them

I have had the birds for close to three years. We have our set routines. I’ve forgotten that things were not always like these. At the beginning, they would not climb on my finger or eat food off my hand. They refused to eat fruits and veges and acted as if they did not see the food in their cage. They refused to go into the shower cage in the beginning. They did not like to be touched. But over months and years, we changed and adapted to each other.

Shower routine: TJ would be the first to get into the shower cage, followed by Maxx. TJ would stand on the left, Maxx on the right. Maxx would be the first to get out of the shower cage, then I have to coaxed TJ to come out.

Outside perch: TJ would be standing in the front, Maxx at the back.

Bedtime routine: When the living rooms lights were turned off, both of them would get into a fight as to who would get the chosen swing.

Morning window routine: TJ would stand on my right hand, Maxx on the left.

Food cups: TJ would eat from the front cup, Maxx the back. And after eating for a while, they would switch cups.

Vege/fruit/treat: There wasn’t a preferred location. The other piece of fruit/vege/treat was always better, so there would always be small fights and run-arounds in the cage.

Fights: I couldn’t say for sure who always won the fights. I think Maxx was often the winner during beak battles. But for some reason, TJ continued to be the boss.

Watching TJ die

TJ was already rather lethargic the day before. When I woke up in the morning, I was afraid that he might already be dead. I came out and couldn’t see TJ on his usual perch. He was standing at the bottom of the cage by the food bowl. For a while, I was a little encouraged thinking he might be hungry and was eating. But he stayed at the bottom of the cage the whole time. And as per usual, I took the birds to the window to look outside. TJ was still so eager to climb on my finger for our morning routine. He even flapped his wings a little.

I quickly got some sweet corn ready and placed the corn on top of the cage. Maxx went for it immediately, but TJ just turned his back and looked away from his favorite corn. I realized then that things are not good. I decided he needed his own space to recuperate and so I set up a hospital cage for TJ. I placed a wooden perch near the bottom of the cage, with food and water. Placed him in there and covered the cage partially with a towel.

But he wasn’t eating or drinking. I gave him the antifungal medicine because it’s supposed to be taken without food. I couldn’t give other meds because he wasn’t eating. I even placed spray millet in the cage but he wasn’t eating.

I started to google and read that I could grind some of the bird pellets and add apple juice and handfeed it to TJ. I ground up some pellets, added water, because I didn’t have apple juice at home, and tried to feed TJ. He refused to eat. I placed him back in the cage and hoped that all he needed was peace and quiet rest.

I had wanted to stay home to write. But I was so worried about TJ that I walked out to the mini-mart to get some apple juice, or Pedialyte or baby food to try and get TJ to eat. The mini-mart only had apple juice so I bought that and some coconut water.

By 6 pm, I tried to give him the antibiotics and antacid. Hardly got any into his beak. Tried to get him to eat the ground pellets with apple juice or even drink the apple juice. No chance. He wasn’t eating. I soaked a cotton wool with apple juice and let him bite it and perhaps get some juice into him. Placed him back into the cage and he was still standing on the perch.

I went to observe him again later and saw him jumped down from the perch and wobbled around, like his legs were too weak to hold him up anymore. It was at that very moment that it hit me that TJ’s end was very near.

I quickly got a cloth, took him out, and held him in my hands. From that moment onwards, I pretty much cried the whole time.

But he didn’t go so quickly.

I held him for quite awhile, even brought him to the windows to look outside like how I would usually do in the morning. After a while, he started to struggle again, so I placed him back in the cage.

It was so painful to watch. He could hardly keep his body upright. He would lie in weird positions in the cage. All this while, he struggled to breathe. At one point, one of his legs straightened out and he was chest down and couldn’t stand up.

I had to go to the bedroom because it was so hard to watch him struggle like that. Finally at around 8:15pm, I found him lying on his back and his two legs horizontally straight. I touched his chest and did not feel any heart beat.

I took the hospital cage to the kitchen without letting Maxx see TJ in the cage. The whole time they were separated, Maxx would climb down his big cage and look at TJ. All the time, always looking for his buddy.

I wasn’t sure of what to do with his body at first. Considered burying him but didn’t know where. Finally, I took a small cardboard box, lined it with paper towels, placed a sprig of spray millet (his favorite treat) and some chew toys, and placed TJ’s body in it. Wrote a goodbye note on the box, tied a string around it, and placed the box in the rubbish chute.

Watching TJ die was agonizing. So much pain and tears.

Today, when I brought Maxx for a much needed shower and there was only one bird in the cage, I cried a little 🙁

And then when I brought out a sweet pea and realized I didn’t need to break it in half and put the 2 halves at different locations in the cage because there was only one bird, I teared a little 🙁 But I still broke the sweet pea in two and put them at the usual locations in the cage out of habit.

And when I brought Maxx to look out the window, and there was only one bird on my hand 🙁

Whenever I look at the cage, and there is only Maxx standing in there 🙁

I miss my cutie-bird TJ so much!

Brewing an Idea

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What do you do with an idea?

You let it churn and brew and regurgitate in your mind. You find people who may be interested and pass the idea over to have it churn and brew and regurgitate in their minds as well.

I’m going to apply for another research grant. So far I’ve already put in quite a number of hours just to get the approval to submit a full proposal by early July.

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Aside from this grant application, I have 2 manuscripts to revise and a new paper to get out by end July. Sometimes, not sometimes, often times, the thought of all the planning, thinking, reading, and writing is very overwhelming.

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I try to work outside the campus, just to get away from my office. I can plan and read, but I don’t think I am productive writing-wise, in the library. I think I write better at home, with music, with some self-talk as I think through how to phrase the sentences. However, free flow internet at home is also a major distractor.

I just hope that no major admin work comes my way the next 2 months.

I love books!

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Today I moved the bookshelf from the living room to my “dry” room (room with dehumidifier). The pages of some of the books are beginning to stick together in this humid weather.

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Based on my collection of cookbooks, I must be a domestic goddess! Or a domestic book collecting goddess 😛 I really like the Culinaria series of “coffee table” cookbooks. The most used cookbook is probably Momofuku for the kimchi and ginger-scallion sauce recipe. Some books like the French Laundry and Bouchon Bakery are nice to read but I will never attempt to use those recipes. Good as occasional bedtime reading material.

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Some books are directly relevant to my work, like my books on writing. I think that copy of the Elements of Style was from the time I was working at MPH.

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And some books are somewhat relevant to my work – books that inspire creativity or productivity.

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Then there are those fun books. I like reading graphic novels. Over and over again.

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Or books in the things that I’m currently interested in. I’m a firm believer that you can learn pretty much anything via books. You can even learn to train to run a marathon from a book. Or learn to be a semi-expert in taking care of pets. I forgot to take a picture of my ukulele books. I think that’s one of few areas that I didn’t learn to do well via reading 😀

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And books in areas that I was once interested in. One time I was interested in making my own clothes. I think I have the capacity to be good in that. But I would need to get a sewing machine which I wasn’t prepared to invest in one. The interest died down soon after that.

I was also interested in movie making and photography. But those interests did not last long. Probably these are areas that you can only get better at from deliberate practice.

Anyway, all the books have been moved into the dry room.

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Dubai (Day One)

It’s almost end of March and I have yet to post anything here this month.

I was in the Gulf Countries or Cities of Dubai, Doha, and Bahrain from 10-20 March 2016. I came back a week ago, last Sunday, but it feels like ages ago. I still haven’t unpacked my luggage bags yet!

I don’t even know how to document my trip here. I saw and experienced so many things. I posted quite a few photos on FB. But there’s just a bit too much to write up. Maybe I’ll start with Day One in Dubai.

Marcelita and I went to a Persian & International buffet restaurant that’s about 10 minutes from the Hyatt Place Baniyas Park. Here is a photo of the hotel.

Hyatt Place Baniyas

The restaurant, Apple Creek Cafe and Restaurant, was located inside a small shopping mall within the Twin Towers. This is the not so glitzy part of Dubai.

The food was pretty good. The meal came up to AED100 (S$38) each. It would have been cheaper if I didn’t blur-blur take a bottle of Perrier water and a bottle of yogurt mint drink! Those were not included in the AED80 dinner buffet.

The view of the Dubai Creek was excellent. The environment, a little smoky because the people around were hookah shisha smoking.

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The waiter even brought the mini flags of Argentina and Malaysia when Marcelita requested for them. We had a good time of catching up. The weather was surprisingly chilly and cloudy that night.

When we were leaving the mall, we noticed all the shops selling fur coats! Fur coats in the Middle-East, how odd, or not 🙂 Anyway, a great beginning to my Middle East tour!

One last thought: Would the Arab Muslim ladies wear the fur coats over or under their black abayas? 🙂

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Good baked goods

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Banana pecan cupcakes!

I had to use up the expired pecans. It turned ok. But more muffin-like than cupcake.

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Cookies and cream cheesecakes!

This one turned out really well. One batch of cake batter made 36 cheese cupcakes. I still have a bunch in my freezer right now. This is after I have distributed the cupcakes far and wide 🙂

The underachieving patissier-hopeful

When I first moved to Singapore, I had a grandiose dream of baking and sharing wonderful cupcakes.

Four years later, no cupcakes 🙁 The only think I ever made with the Kitchenaid mixer was whipped cream. How sad!

Here is my underachieving and neglected Kitchenaid mixer:
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Well, in 2016, I’m going to try and at least bake once a month. Went to stock up my baking pantry with some essential stuff. All my old baking ingredients had expired 🙁

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My top goodies to bake are Ispahan (rose, lychee and raspberry) cupcake, and Milk Bar’s compost cookies (with pretzels, potato chips, coffee ground). But I will probably make a Banana Pecan cupcake first. I need to finish up my expired pecans.

Fitness Quest

I changed the category of “Running Quest” to “Fitness Quest” since I don’t run anymore.

Last November, I discovered FitnessBlender.com and I have been consistently doing their workouts at home. Working out at home is great because I don’t have to spend 2-3 hours traveling time to get to the gym and back.

Over the years, I’ve accumulated some workout gears. Some of which were actually shipped to Singapore from the US over four years ago. I like the FitnessBlender videos. The structure is easy to follow, but the workouts can be quite tough. But I can feel that I’m getting better at it.

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I am still going to the gym for group classes, particularly for Body Pump and RPM during the weekends. Eventhough I burn about the same amount of calories both with FitnessBlender and the gym classes, I think my muscles are more sore from gym classes. I slack off more at home.

I definitely enjoy the strength training workouts much more than an hour on the treadmill. I still like the idea of running, but I just haven’t been able to consistently run so that I won’t feel like my heart will jump out of my chest even when I’m doing my slow shuffle. I think my knees also can’t handle the pounding much now.