Twitter Follower Milestone

Twitter has a limit to the number of people you can follow.  That number is 2,000, unless the number of followers that you have is within 10%.  Well, my follower count just passed 2,000.

I currently have 2,002 followers and I follow 2,051.  How did I do it?  Quite easily, actually.  I used justunfollow, a service that allows you to copy followers from others, see who’s reliable at following you back, and see who hasn’t been updating in a long time.

Well, I don’t copy followers.  I don’t like to do that.  I do check other popular Twitter users’ followers and see who looks interesting for me to follow.  So, I follow those people, and hope they follow back.  Keep in mind that I only follow those I’m interested in.  I don’t just follow whoever.  If someone follows me, I don’t necessarily follow back unless I’m interested in that person.

I also go through who I’m following to see who hasn’t updated in a long time. If their account has been silent for more than 6 months, I just unfollow them.  No need to have dead accounts wasting space.  It’s the people I follow that need to be monitored.  They don’t have to follow me back, just as long as they are actually updating.

I value my followers.  I want to provide something they can enjoy reading.  If you want to follow me, my Twitter account is right here.  I can’t guarantee I’ll follow back, but if your interests are similar to mine, there’s a great chance I will follow back.  If you’re a writer, I’ll definitely follow back.

Well, thanks to everyone who does follow me.  You’re all appreciated, and if you interact with me on Twitter, I will always reply.

Living with Psoriasis

This is not easy to write.  I’m sure everyone has something that they’d find difficult to write about.  Well, this is mine.

You see, I have a skin condition called psoriasis.  It’s an autoimmune disease where the immune system misfires and causes skin cells to divide around three times faster than normal.  The immune system thinks normal skin cells are some kind of pathogen that needs to be destroyed.  Unfortunately, it causes patches of red, flaky skin.  It’s a genetic disease that is much more common in Caucasians, especially for those of Scandinavian ancestry.  My maternal grandmother’s Norwegian, so that’s probably where I get it from.  There are several types of psoriasis, but mine is the regular plaque type.  There is no cure, but there are treatments that can improve the condition or even put it into remission.  However, relapses can happen often.  It’s a mystery what causes it, but it seems to be triggered by things like skin injury or stress.  It is not contagious, so don’t worry if you see someone with psoriasis.  You cannot catch it from them.

When I first noticed my psoriasis, it was 2000, and I had a patch of dry skin on my scalp that wouldn’t improve.  Being the Internet-savvy person I was at the time, I did a lot of research on skin conditions and came to the very incorrect conclusion that it was ringworm.  I visited a walk-in clinic to get it checked out, and the very arrogant doctor told me it was psoriasis.  He gave me a prescription for a topical corticosteroid cream while talking to me like I was a child who needed to be scolded.  I had no idea what his problem was.  So, I used the cream, but it was in my hair, so difficult to use.

Despite my attempts to use it, new patches of psoriasis appeared in different parts of my scalp, almost a mirror image of the original patch.  You see, psoriasis is often symmetrical, and affects both sides of the body in roughly the same location.  I bet you didn’t know that.

It grew and grew and grew, and eventually started showing on my ears and forehead.  That’s not common.  I was extremely self-conscious about it, and did my best to use my hair to cover it up. Sometimes it improved, and I was glad it was just a small spot on my forehead.

Fast-forward a few years, and it’s 2005.  I’m leaving for Japan.  I make sure I have a good supply of shampoo that’s made for people with psoriasis, because I don’t know if it’s sold in Japan.  Well, it’s not.  This means I get my mom and sister to send me some every so often from Canada.  There are two main types, one with coal tar, and the other with salicylic acid.  The coal tar type smells a lot and is not recommended for long-term use.  It can make the skin extremely sensitive to the sun.  Awful thing for Japanese summers.  It can also increase chances of cancer, as coal tar is a carcinogen.  Salicylic acid is much gentler, and it helps break up the dead skin cells, so I won’t have a snowstorm falling out of my hair.  That’s the type I use.  It manages it, but doesn’t improve it.

While in Japan, my psoriasis worsened.  It spread.  It’s now on my legs and a bit on my lower back.  I had a patch in my armpit, but it hasn’t returned in years.  My fingernails also occasionally get it.  It’s kind of annoying, because it pulls my fingernails from the skin, so it looks like they’re about to fall off.  Give it a couple months and they’re clear again.  It’s a cycle.  I even lost part of one of my big toenails to it, but now it’s normal again.

You see, this is the kind of thing I have to contend with.  Japan’s hot and humid summers are great for my psoriasis, though.  So is exercise.  The more I sweat, the better it seems to get.  The winters are dry, so I get dry skin often.  But it was like that in Canada, too.

Psychologically, this condition has given me many ups and downs.  I’ve been very self-conscious about it for a long time.  I try to hide it as much as possible.  I tried not to wear shorts, because I didn’t want it to show.  I get comments from time to time, such as, “Why don’t you use dandruff shampoo?” and “Are you under a lot of stress?”  Well, dandruff shampoo is the worst thing I could use.  It would aggravate my skin.  As for stress, sometimes, sure.  It was triggered by stress in the beginning, as it was shortly after both of my grandmothers had passed away, and I was unable to go to either of their funerals.  I often tried to deflect these questions.

But now, I’ve come to accept my condition.  That is why I’m writing this.  I feel more comfortable about saying this, although this is still quite a difficult thing for me to talk about in person with acquaintances.  However, I go out wearing shorts.  I don’t care if people can see it.  But I also don’t get comments about it.  People in Japan are polite like this, they don’t try to draw attention to anything about a person.  I’ve accepted that there’s not much I can do about my skin in Japan, other than get some sun (UV is actually therapeutic for psoriasis), but not too much, use moisturizer in winter, use my shampoo, and dress in loose clothes as much as possible.  I can’t stop it from happening.  I hope for remission, which is entirely possible, and is often sudden and unpredictable, but I won’t keep my hopes up.

What I ask is for people to understand that while I have this skin condition, it doesn’t affect my daily life.  It is also something I’m still not comfortable talking about with people who don’t understand it.  It’s not something that can be solved by using soap or dandruff shampoo.  It’s not something that can be solved with certain medicines, changed diet, or anything like that.  The problem with psoriasis is that it behaves differently for different people.  What works for one person may not work for another.  While advice is appreciated, I have tried many things that don’t work.  I haven’t found anything that’s effective for me, either.  But it seems exercise eases it.

For those of you who have psoriasis, and are having difficulty with dealing with it, you’re not alone.  Two to four percent of the population has psoriasis.  That’s between around 140 to 280 million people around the world.  That’s a lot.  But if you need someone to talk to, go to my about page and send me a message.  You can also read this flash fiction I wrote yesterday about the subject.

I hope everyone can come away from this blog post with better understanding.  Thanks for reading.

Daily Flash Fiction #3 – Skin

Jesse peeled the glove off his left hand.  His skin cracked on his fingers and two bled.  It was painful.

He opened his locker and took out his cream.  He twisted off the lid, but saw the door to his left open.  Benny.  Why’d it have to be him? thought Jesse.

“Hey, Jess, whatcha got there?” said Benny.  He craned his neck to get a better look.

“Nothing much.  Hand just got banged up a bit on that last play.  He slid right into my hand and it hit the base.”  It was a lie.  Go away, Benny.  I don’t want you to see this.

“Let me look,” he said.

Jesse jerked his hand out of Benny’s line of sight.  “No, it’s all right.”

“Ya think I’m gonna do something to you?” said Benny as he raised his eyebrow.

Yes, I do think that. You’re the biggest pain in the ass on this team.  “No, it’s just no big deal.”

Benny grabbed Jesse’s shoulder and turned him around.  Jesse looked down at the floor.  He didn’t want to look Benny in the eye.

“Oh, what’s this?” He looked at Jesse’s hand and nodded.  “I see, I see.”

“What?  What do you see?” snapped Jesse.  He pulled his hand back and reached for his glove.

“Psoriasis, isn’t it?”

“Huh?  How do you know?”  His eyes met Benny’s.  He didn’t see scorn or ridicule, but sympathy.

“I got it, too,” he said.  “Look.”  He pointed at his head.  “Red and flakey all over.  It’s a bitch to get rid of.  Annoys the hell out of me.”

Jesse stared.  I can’t believe it. All this time, I’ve been trying to hide it, and the team’s biggest bully has it, too.

“Jess, you’re not alone,” Benny said and smiled.  “Now get your ass out of here before I decide to do something.”

Jesse smiled.  I guess I’m not alone. “Thanks, Benny.”

What Will You Write? #5 Restart

It’s August, so that means the hiatus is over.  What Will You Write? is starting again, and part 5 will begin again now.

Over the past month, many of you would have been participating in Camp NaNoWriMo.  Well, feel free to ease your Camp hangover with this challenge.

It’s very easy, just go to the original post, read the rules and write your entry.  You have 2 weeks to complete your entry.  So, that gives you until August 17th at 3:00 pm GMT.  Please link back to the original post and leave a comment there.  I’d like to keep all the entries linked to from the original post for easy reference.  So, please do not post your entry to this post, only to the original post.

As before, Tara Southwell is the guest judge, so she can’t enter this round.  There are already two entries, but I’m sure she’d like to read more. So, please share this with anyone you think would enjoy doing this challenge.

Daily Flash Fiction 2 – Blue

I sat in my window seat and looked out the window.  The weekly Lunar Shuttle hummed as the crew prepared the scramjet-ion propulsion hybrid space plane.  The horizon was obscured by a yellow haze, a very familiar sight.  I wasn’t on Venus, though.  I was on Earth.

“This is the Captain speaking.  We have been cleared for takeoff, so please make sure your seats are in the upright position and all of your belongings are stowed and sealed in the storage compartments above your seats.  I would like to remind you that when we leave the atmosphere, we will be accelerating to escape velocity, so please remain in your seats with your seatbelts fastened until we give the all clear for movement within the cabin at microgravity.”

I stopped listening at this point.  It was the same as always.  I made this trip once a year, so I knew the safety procedures.

I looked out the window again.  I felt the vehicle moving, but I couldn’t see any changes outside.  The haze was so thick that I didn’t see the terminal building.  The engines roared and the thrust pushed me back into my seat.  Within seconds, I sensed an upward movement.  Airborne.

The window was still yellow.  That’s all I saw.  It had been twenty-seven years since the sky faded to yellow.  I remembered seeing photographs of Beijing in the early twentieth century that were similar.  But now there wasn’t a single place in the world that wasn’t yellow.  I missed the old sky.

I looked at the flight clock.  Two minutes and thirty-five seconds.  Only moments to go.  I gazed out the window again. 

Yellow. 

Maybe ten more seconds. 

Now cream. 

Five seconds.

Blue.

I smiled.  My old sky again.

Daily Flash Fiction 1 – Bacon

baconSo enticing.  So mouthwatering. Barry entered the dimly-lit warehouse, unable to resist the scent.  Bacon! I must have it.

He stalked his prey, moving through the shadows.  He couldn’t see his goal.  It must be somewhere. But where is it?

Relying on his nose, the intoxicating smell drew him toward a collection of crates, stacked in a circle, not unlike Stonehenge.  That’s when he saw it.  In centre of the circle, a column of light revealed a table with a platter of pork belly bacon.  The aroma grew stronger as he strode toward the cratehenge.

Barry couldn’t shake the uneasy feeling.  This is strange.  Why would there be bacon in a place like this?  Who put it there? He inhaled the scent and smiled.  It must be a gift from above.  It’s so heavenly.

He dashed to the table and grabbed a rasher.  Fried to crispy perfection.  He smelled the strip and closed his eyes.  Is this heaven?  Barry’s hand directed the bacon past his lips and toward his awaiting tongue.  He bit the strip in half and savoured the flavour.  This is incredible.  This is the best bacon I’ve ever had.  And it’s all mine.

A metallic crash broke his reverie and his eyes snapped open.  A cage with vertical bars surrounded him, trapping him like an animal.  Who could have done this?  Was this a trap? he asked himself.

“Hello?” he said.  He scanned the darkness beyond the cage and didn’t see anything other than the crates.  “Is anyone there?  I’d like a little help, please.”

He saw something move in the darkness behind a crate.  He squinted.  A woman? The figure was slight and petite and moved with the grace of a dancer.  It came into the light and Barry gasped.  The woman was not human.  The ash-skinned being observed him with vivid aquamarine eyes larger than his fist.  It had a large, egg-shaped head and a mouth that looked like toilet seat.  The thin arms and legs appeared boneless, moving with the flexibility of octopus tentacles.  The four-fingered hands relaxed by its sides.  An alien?

The alien tilted its head, regarding Barry with an expression he couldn’t place.  Flute music filled the air.  But it wasn’t a flute.  Barry heard words.  The alien was speaking to him.  “Stupid human.  We know your weakness.”

Barry’s vision turned to black.  The bacon.  The delicious, irresistible bacon must have been drugged. He then fell into a dreamless sleep.

Resolutions, and It’s not New Year’s Day

Who cares that it’s not January 1st?  I’m going to make some resolutions now.

Sometimes, I feel like I have to do some refocusing on what I need to do to be more successful at what I do.  I need to cut what’s unnecessary and devote more resources to what’s important.  So, here are my New Month’s Resolutions:

  • Devote at least 30 minutes a day reading.  I do read around 40-90 minutes already, but I don’t read on my days off.  I need to remedy that.
  • Devote at least 30 minutes a day writing.  I’ve been bad at this.  I need to write, whether it’s for Journey to Ariadne, flash fiction, or something else.
  • Work on Journey to Ariadne at least 3 days a week.  If I do this, I could get more parts out faster.
  • Do at least 2 videos a week, preferably one on books and writing, and the other on Japan.  I’ve been doing a decent job of Japan videos, though.
  • Post comments on other blogs every day.  I just must do this.
  • Reblog a great post at least once a week.  It’s great to promote others’ blogs.
  • Try to post on average 2 posts per day.  1 post is flash fiction, the other is something else.  More if I can.
  • Write flash fiction every day.  It’ll help me improve my writing skills and will expose people to my writing.
  • Write a rather personal blog post, one which I hope will be inspirational to others.
  • Engage people on Twitter daily.  I tend to respond a day or two late.  I can’t continue doing that.
  • Use more images on my blog posts.  Something simple is fine.
  • Try to do one worldbuilding post a month.  This is an important subject to me.

That’s a lot of resolutions, but I think they’re all achievable.  They aren’t extreme, and I have the ability to do them all.  I just need to dedicate myself to doing this.

Anyone else have any 58.3% of the Year’s Resolutions?

Month in Review – July 2014

July was a busy month, mostly in my personal life, but there was also Camp NaNoWriMo.  However, it was slower here on the blog.

July Stats

No records broken this month, unfortunately.  It wasn’t as busy as June was, but I think many people were busy, since it is summer.  The busiest day was July 25th with 87 views.  July had 1,505 views in total, which is the second best month.  The month finished with 15,984 views.  There were 47 posts, which brought the total past 500 posts.

The month ended with 2,508 comments, meaning there were 305 comments during the month.  This is down from June.

The top 10 countries for July are:

  1. United States (898)
  2. Canada (183)
  3. Japan (84)
  4. United Kingdom (80)
  5. Australia (34)
  6. India (27)
  7. Singapore (21)
  8. Norway (16)
  9. Germany (8)
  10. Netherlands (6)

Top Posts

The 5 most popular posts made in July are:

  1. Welcome, World! Stay a While (46 views)
  2. Cravings I Can’t Satisfy in Japan (39 views)
  3. Narrative: Simple Is Best? (30 views)
  4. Uncooperative Typhoon (29 views)
  5. Strong Female Characters (28 views)
  6. Free or 99 Cents? (28 views)

My most popular post written before July was actually my most popular post in July.  That was The Power of Introverts – From TED. It had 78 views.

Posts that deserve another look are:

Reviews

Not a single review posted.  However, I did finish 2 books, and plan to have the reviews up soon.

Looking Ahead to August

August is a hot month, and I do have a short holiday in the middle of the month, so I may have more time to work on the blog.  I’d like to break my post record with 60.  But I’ll be happy with 50 posts.  You’ll see a couple of reviews shortly, as well.  There are a couple really big things happening in August.  First is the return of What Will You Write? It’ll be done every two weeks starting this weekend.  Second, I’m starting a flash fiction series, and hope to write a very short scene every day starting today.  I hope you enjoy it.

July felt like a slow month to me, so I hope things improve for August.  I look forward to seeing what August brings.