Sunday, December 21, 2014

60 days no rice challenge, my experience

Just a few days before deepavali this year I started learning and practicing goal settings. Setting up your goals and achieving them step by step. One of the ideas about goal setting is that you can learn to get used to setting goals and achieving them. The more you are used to setting goals and achieving them then the more you would be able to set and achieve. Something more the less like that...

Quite a coincidence around that time I saw on my facebook feed the hashtag #60daysnoricechallenge. I thought, "Well, that's a good way to practice goal setting and getting my mind and habit into it. I'll give it a shot". So that was the reason I started the 60 days no rice challenge. Not really to lose weight or anything, but just as a way to practice setting and achieving a goal. But a lot of people didn't know that at the time and when they started to see the hashtag #60daysnoricechallenge on my feed assumed that I was doing it for weight loss. And here's where it gets interesting.....

As part of the 60 days challenge, I would post on my feeds (facebook, instagram, twitter) a picture of the meals I'm taking everyday that was proof that I didn't take rice. And in the first few days when I started posting I got a lot of feedback... a lot.... Most of the feedback was of the kind that gave some moral support, but there was some that gave "advice" on how to lose weight, and some others were just "well, that's made out of rice flour too so you are technically eating rice"... :/ I thank you all who took the time to give feedback on my posts. It was heart warming for me to see so many people are quite concerned about me and my health. But yeah, technically I wasn't doing it to lose weight. And thus my avoiding of rice was limited to only things that "look" like rice including pulut and others and not including things that doesn't look like rice at all even though it was made of rice flour like kueh teow and such. But as expected the amount of feedback started to dwindle down after a few days. I guess there was only so many things one can actually say about those posts. But in less than 10 days the feedback almost died out except for a few likes (which was an easy thing to do, just click the icon) and a few people who was really persistent and I should probably give them an award or something... :P So that was interesting, my goal setting practice became some sort of social experiment.

So apart from just practice settings goals, was there any impact? Well... there is some.

First off, I've lost a few kilos. I'm not sure exactly how much because since I didn't do it to lose weight I didn't actually weight myself just before I started and kept a tab on my weight. But the heaviest I've weight myself before the challenge, I was around 148kg. And just as of yesterday, I was around 142kg. Now I don't really consider that as loosing much (just 6kg) because I could easily gain all that back within just a few days (experience from many ramadhans before this.. :P) But still, I do feel a bit better about myself. My belt notch has gone down by 2 holes and I do feel a bit more awake and energetic than before I started the challenge. So yes, even though I started the challenge not to lose weight and stuff, there is some real physical benefit of doing it.

But for me, more than those physical benefit, it's the mental impact that was startling. Yes, I didn't do it to lose weight so I didn't mind eating more of everything else to "compensate" for not eating rice, but since I'm watching to make sure I don't eat rice, I am so much more aware of what I eat. And the thing is, we eat so much rice every single day. And we don't feel it, we are not aware of it. For example, after having kueh teow goreng for breakfast for almost 3 days, I got sick of it and tried to look for something else. But with rice, we don't get sick of eating rice. Today it might be nasi lemak, tomorrow nasi dagang, the next day nasi goreng, the next day nasi bubur. All that is just the breakfast menu and we don't get sick of it ever. Heck, even nasi lemak you can have it in a variety of ways by mixing and matching the lauk you eat it with. You can have all kinds of variety of nasi 3 times a day every single day and you still would not be sick of it. Amazing... So more aware of what I eat is a good thing.

Another mental impact is just the amount of effort it takes to not eat rice. This has a lot to do with the first point of us eating so much rice that it is on the menu all the time. In some places they only serve rice so finally you end up just eating the lauk. And it tickles me that some of my friends would start considering the places to eat and thinking "but what would dollah eat there". My answer to that is "I'm just not eating rice, not going vegetarian or anything. So it really doesn't matter". In the early days of this challenge, I was really reeling back from the mental effort of avoiding rice. I was thinking on the 61st day I'm so going to get my revenge. I'll eat all kinds of rice meals 3 times a day and probably more. But once I got more and more used to it, the urge is no longer there. So now it is the 61st day and I've decided that I'll continue to avoid rice as a personal choice rather than because of a challenge. So once in a while I'll partake in a rice meal if it's some sort of special occasion, but I'll try my best to avoid it at normal times. With regards to that, I'm reserving my first rice meal for the wedding of my good friend Darmawan. So it'd better be awesome Dar.. :P

And finally, another impact of the challenge was, at least 2 people I know off actually started the 60 days no rice challenge too because they were inspired by me.. :P Good luck guys.. insyaAllah you will find it beneficial.

So that wraps up my thoughts and experience of the 60 days no rice challenge. It has been pretty good and I'm glad I did it. 60 days no rice challenge, accepted and DONE...   :D


Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Painless Functional Specs

Documentation.... Documentation never change.... (end fallout war never change reference)

I don't particularly like documentation. Sorry, let me rephrase that. I LOVE good documentations, I just don't like doing them. That being said, I need to start to really learn how to do it properly and meaningfully so that I too can generate great documentation which everyone loves to refer to but doesn't like to do. So where do I start? From the legend himself, Joel Spolsky. You can read them from his old blog but I'm just going to do a summary here for my own reference.

His first essay is on why functional specs should be done. Well, it's so that Bob the programmer know what to code out, it's so that Tina the marketing exec knows what features are available and what to say to the customers, it's so that Dol the manager knows what on earth he is managing.

Next, he outlines what should be in a spec. In short there should be

  1. A disclaimer
    • A paragraph saying "This spec is not complete" will avoid people coming to bite your head off
  2. An author. One author.
    • Specs should be owned by someone. A real person. Not a group or a committee but an actual breathing, living person who will take responsibility for the spec. A large program can have many small specs written by one person each.
  3. Scenarios
    • Think of some real live scenarios for how people is going to use it
  4. Nongoals
    • Cull features straight away to avoid infinite time and cost
  5. An overview
    • Everybody who reads this will get the big picture, then the details will make more sense
  6. Details, details, details
    • Mind numbing detail
  7. Open issues
    • It's ok for the first version of the spec to have open issues
  8. Side notes
    • Useful factoids which might be useful to just one of the group of audience for the spec
  9. Specs need to stay alive
    • The specs always reflect our best collective understanding of how the software would work
In the third installment of the writing, he mentions about the importance of the Program Manager. 

And in the fourth and last installment he gives some tips for spec writing. They are:
  1. Be funny
  2. Writing a spec is like writing code for a brain to execute
  3. Write as simply as possible
  4. Review and reread several times
  5. Templates considered harmful
And that is all more the less what I need to know. So here I go writing out specs like a boss.....

Friday, August 1, 2014

Me and my sleep apnea

I have been suffering from sleep apnea for quite a few years already. It started to show when I was still with OSCC some 6 years back when I would sometimes "accidentally" sleep at my cubicle. Early on I just dismissed it as because I was growing fat (we ate a lot at OSCC.. :P and I barely went anywhere except my cubicle) and also because of babies. Oh babies.. those cute little things that keeps you awake at night so that they can be so cute and charming when your friends and relatives come over the next day. So it was dismissed. Later on I got more and more used to sleeping at work, started associating it with my lack of motivation and sometimes feeling of downright depression. And I kept growing fatter and fatter, which I assumed was the reason why I was getting more and more tired.

But then around 2 years ago a friend of mine suggested maybe I've got sleep apnea. And a few other people suggested I go to a sleep clinic and all that. Put it off for quite a while. Until I feel I couldn't put it off any longer. My condition got so bad, that almost everyday I worked around half day only, because by noon I could barely keep my eyes open, much less think to do my work (and as a programmer, thinking is a big part of the job). Last year for raya we didn't even go anywhere because I couldn't trust myself to drive long distances. The year before we went back to Kedah, I only got up to Rawang, then I got so sleepy I couldn't drive anymore, my wife drove all the way to Gurun. I started dozing off on my motorcycle and barely miss dividers and lorries (ON MY MOTORCYCLE.. can you imagine how tired I was to doze off on a MOTORCYCLE!!! I was controlling it, I wasn't riding it and dozed off while someone else was controlling it, I WAS CONTROLLING IT).

And that's just the beginning. Not to mention the amount of depression I had to fight off because I wasn't getting my jobs done, my datelines was flushed down the toilet, my freelance jobs I had to cancel because I couldn't deliver, the debts I had to take to keep on going with less income, the whole spiral of self blame and self loathing, the doubt, the second guesses, the shame....

So late last year I started to take action. Asked about my company policy on footing the bill for sleep apnea treatment and Alhamdullillah they will foot the bill for treatment by any panel specialist. So I started doing research and found that the Sunway Medical Centre had sleep study facilities. I went to a panel clinic and got the recommendation letter to see a nose and throat specialist for my condition.

Over at Sunway Medical Centre I was treated by Dr. Gan Tong Nee. He's a great doctor with many years of experience with this kind of problems. I wanted to go into the sleep clinic immediately but he suggested I try the nasal spray first. So went on the nasal spray for around a month. Still not much improvement. So we actually had an MRI done. From it you could actually see the nose polyps build-up in my nose. He suggest to have them removed first because he said even if I was to use a CPAP machine I wouldn't use it for long because it would be very uncomfortable. So I had a MINOR surgery to have them removed. The doctor said minor, but let me tell you, if they cut you up anywhere near your face, mmm... minor is an understatement. I had to have someone collect my piss for 3 days because I couldn't get up. Maybe it's also due to my being a little bit obese so it exaggerated the problem, but seriously, NOT MINOR. But what a difference it made. In the first few weeks after all the bandage came off, I felt like I didn't even have a nose anymore. It's like the whole front of my face was a gaping hole and air came in and out as it pleases. It felt nice. But as soon as my medical leave was over, and I went back to work, the whole problem started again. So this time the good doctor put me in a sleep study.


This was how I looked like taking the sleep test. All wired up like some fat ironman. And the sleep study concluded that I still had sleep apnea despite the surgery so I'll have to start using a CPAP machine. But after thousands and thousands of ringgit paid for by my company for all the check-ups and surgery, they won't pay for the machine because that machine would be brought back home and I guess owned by the staff or something like that. Whichever way it is, it wasn't covered. If I bought it from Sunway Medical Centre, it could set me back at least RM 10k-12k depending on the model I choose. So, since I have to pay for it myself, I looked for a cheaper alternative.

After much search and googling I found http://cpap.com.my/. I bought the Apex iCH Auto CPAP for just RM 5800 (including the full mask) and have been using it ever since. I changed to the nasal mask because the full mask kept on leaking probably due to my many many facial hairs. But apart from that it has worked pretty well. It has a built in humidifier which helped a lot to keep the nose comfortable without feeling stuffed up in the morning. But most days I don't even fill it up with water because my kids sometimes play with it while I sleep. There was once my youngest one actually toppled it when there was water inside. Good thing it fell on the pipe out side and so the water didn't get into the machine and damage it but ever since then I only use water if my kids are all asleep already.

And what's my verdict? Well, Alhamdullillah I have been productive at work ever since I got the machine. I'm putting in a full day worth of work and I have caught up with most of my work at the office. I still haven't taken any serious freelance job yet but can actually look forward to taking on some soon once the opportunity arrive and I've cleared some personal projects. And most importantly, and that's why I'm writing this today, is yesterday we just came back from Kedah. I drove the whole 10 hours crawling there, and the 9 hours crawling back. I was tired by the end. With the last few hours I had to keep on massaging my neck and thighs to give some relieve to the tiredness I felt, but apart from that, Alhamdullillah we are safely back home. And so it has been proven beyond any shred of doubt that the RM 5800 I spent (and additionally RM 500 for the nasal mask) and all the surgery I had to go through was well worth it. Alhamdullillah.... I'm not completely out of the woods yet, but at least now there is hope and insyaAllah I can get there...

Haiya ala Solah