Entering Discworld – again

My first Discworld novel was “The Truth” and I fell in love. I kept reading. And I always wanted more.

After him “leaving early to avoid the rush” last year, I wanted nothing more than to read the entire Discword series from start to finish, in the right order. I never got time.

But enough is enough.

Here’s what I’ll be doing. I’m going to read the entire series this year (that’s 41 of them; I’m not looking at The Science of Discworld range yet) and every 4-5 books, will write a round-up. Most are available in my local library, and the rest I’ll borrow or buy. Even if I’ve read a book before, I will read it again.

I’m not only going to be reading these though! As with every year for a while now, I’ve been aiming and mostly succeeding in reading 100 books a year. In 2015, due to a variety of reasons, I only managed 63. But I’m back to 100 this year, and I’m pretty sure I’ll make it.

So my Discworld journey begins.

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Thoughts on getting fancy schmancy nails done

People who know me very well will know I can’t really be bothered with make-up, or manicures, and so on. But with a three week-long holiday upon me, including a full-blown Indian wedding and then Christmas, I decided to take the plunge and try this long-lasting nail polish thingybob I’d heard about.

I was told by reliable sources that there are two types of long-lasting nail procedures: Gelish and Shellac. My parlour (YES, YEGADS, I HAVE ONE!) does the former, so I was set.

I chose to have a French manicure, which was a big mistake (more on that later). Essentially, they keep applying goop on your nails, then plonk it in a little box that “cooks the nails” (the parlour lady’s words, not mine) and then voila… nails that don’t chip. Which is, frankly, a miracle when it comes to me. I’m the girl who gets a manicure once a year then smudges it within 7 minutes of leaving the parlour. I have, on occasion, done it while still inside the premises.

But nope, errant zippers and my own clumsy will were befuddled this time as my nails lived on. As if they were done yesterday.

So why was the French manicure a mistake? Mostly because after two weeks my nails obviously grew longer and there was this weird shadow effect on my nails where the white bit of the manicure was shorter than my actual white nail underneath and it just looked odd. If and when I do it again, I’d probably go for a block colour to prevent zombie nails from returning.

And I didn’t even take a photo…

Stationery I love: Surat Journals, your little blank book

Stationery I love: Surat Journals, your little blank book

On December 13, 2014, I stumbled across a little pop-up market at DUCTAC, Mall of the Emirates. I’d just gone there to return books to my library (it’s called The Old Library, if anyone’s interested, and it’s fabulous). While I browsed the stands, this one caught my eye. Books – an easy way to get my attention.

It turned out to be blank books (‘little blank books’, even) created with leather from the Philippines, and recycled paper. Shut with a strip of leather, I thought the books were stylish, eye-catching, and an attractive companion for people who take notes, and enjoy stationery. Very affordable too, as you can see from the pictures. The one I picked up was AED 80, and it was to be a Christmas present – and the recipient seemed to love it, so that’s a job well done! I now regret not getting one for myself, so that’s on my to-do list.

The founder is a man named Ken Surat (hence the name Surat Journals) and here’s the Surat Journals Facebook page if you’re interested in getting a book for yourself.

Lush’s 12 Days of Christmas

Lush’s 12 Days of Christmas

I’ve loved Lush for a while now. I can’t remember when I first discovered the gorgeous smells the company produces, but I was instantly hooked. Recently, I wandered over to the Lush Christmas event in Dubai, and boy, was that literally a feast for the senses! New products, new colours and beautiful gift boxes everywhere.

Some Instagram photos from the day here:

Happiness would be a @lushuae buffet – like this! #lushchristmas

A post shared by Devina Divecha (@devinadivecha) on

Christmas penguins! Cute and smells good #lushchristmas @lushuae

A post shared by Devina Divecha (@devinadivecha) on

Very cute hedgehogs and snowmen, and BRIGHT colours! #lushchristmas

A post shared by Devina Divecha (@devinadivecha) on

Gorgeous "12 Days of Christmas" #lushchristmas gift box. Yup, 12 products inside! @lushuae

A post shared by Devina Divecha (@devinadivecha) on

At the end of the media preview, we all walked away with this beauty: the 12 Days of Christmas box.

12 Days of Christmas box

Here’s what I found when I unboxed:

I haven’t started using these yet, but I tried a few of them at the media preview, and I cannot wait to pamper myself. The Christmas range should be available in UAE Lush stores this week – are you tempted?

Do you have a favourite Lush product? Which one is it? Let me know!

Zurich’s #TrulyLove social media campaign to raise funds for Manzil Centre for Challenged Individuals

Just got information about this Ramadan campaign which supports the Manzil Centre for Challenged Individuals in Sharjah (disclosure: my brother attends that school so I have a vested interest in this campaign succeeding!) – do share!

So many social media enthusiasts out there sharing photos about things they love… I’m sure people can find time to add an extra hashtag to them to help a good cause.

Information about campaign:

This Ramadan, Zurich International Life Middle East (Zurich) has partnered with RAKBANK to help give some love back the community.

Zurich’s #TrulyLove social media (Twitter, Facebook and Instagram) campaign aims to raise funds and awareness for Manzil, and for each photo and caption posted, Zurich and RAKBANK will donate AED 5 – with the aim of raising AED 75,000 for Manzil over the 4 week campaign.

Participants also get the chance to:

  • WIN! Each week, 6 shopping vouchers worth AED 500 will be given away to those with the most likes and shares.
  • BECOME A STAR! The top posts will get to feature in a future Zurich advertising campaign.

So, do your bit for Manzil today and get posting! All you have to do is post a photo and caption of something you #TrulyLove

To participate go to trulylove.zurich.co.ae or www.zurich.co.ae

1. Submit a photo and caption
2. Use #TrulyLove to post
3. Get friends and family to vote
4. WIN!

My special needs reads #3

Back to what I’m reading!

Couple of old links I looked back on but great ones… This one is on popular special needs blog Love That Max, and shares results of a survey taken of over 300 adults who have siblings with disabilities. These kind of stories always interest me, to see what other siblings think or feel. Have a read!

Here’s one I have on bookmark – and it’s about honesty in special needs families. Much love to Lisa Domican for blogging about this; it’s titled “coming clean about that autism taboo“. It’s about being able to have an ‘off day/month/year’ when it comes to living with special needs. The media loves a feel-good story, but it’s not rainbows and miracles every day and families who live with special needs know that. We look on the bright side, A LOT, but sometimes, heck, you just want a rest. So it’s ok to feel annoyed, angry, upset, frustrated… this is normal. And Lisa’s post is very insightful on the matter.

This is a great post from Mashable which has five different simulation videos that show you exactly what people with autism experience on a regular basis in “normal” life experiences. To quote from the article: “To the extent that these simulations can illustrate how noxious sensory stimulation can be for individuals with ASD, they may help the general population to better understand the difficulty of living with ASD.”

This one is recent and topical – as a journalist myself, it annoys me no end to see media outlets shout out crap like “person with autism shoots XXX number of people” and “serial killer autistic” and stuff like that. What pissed me off even more recently was an “article” that shouted out that there was a “significant statisical link between mass murder and autism”. But buried in that article was a line that the study was speculative and anecdotal. Uhhhh. My thoughts summed up perfectly here by autism father Stuart Duncan: “Dear news media, this is how you fail the autism community so badly”.

A pretty comprehensive study that covered 2 million children from 1982-2006 (out of which over 14,000 had autism) was undertaken by researchers at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden, King’s College in London, and Mount Sinai in the United States which states that “Autism risk half genetic, half environmental“. Have a look!

That’s it for this week … till the next time!

My special needs reads #2

Alright, so I’m back with a list of all things special needs-related I’m reading this week.

I’ve been interested for a while in the suggested link between diet and autism, and while this article’s usage of the word “cure” annoys me, it’s an interesting piece on how there are differences in the bacteria found in the intestines of people with autism, and those who are neuro-typical. It also suggests pro-biotic therapy as something that might one day be an option.

Media is also an important part of how the general community views people with special needs. This article is about a mother and other groups pushing for mediums like advertisements showcasing people with all kinds of abilities. I personally feel it’s going to be a while before this becomes “normal”.

An unfortunate set of incidents I often end up reading about are guardians/parents who end up killing their charge with special needs, and more often than not, kill themselves as well. In response to many people on the internet showing sympathy for the mom who committed the latest murder, Squidalicious has posted a succint piece on the matter. There’s also an audio discussion on the same issue.

This one is a short article, which I found interesting, about a 22-year-old who is pursuing research about the potential link between Down Syndrome and Alzheimers. It’s not a hypothesis I’ve come across before, so it’s interesting to see if this goes anywhere concrete.

There’s a piece that hit closer to home – about the ‘hidden community in autism‘. It’s the set of families that deal with the extreme end of autism – with the biting, the hair pulling, the tantrums, aggression, and much more. It’s not easy to manage, and can scare people if they haven’t seen it before. While there are instances in that post which are more extreme than I’ve ever seen, even Karan sometimes has bouts of tantrums/aggression that aren’t pretty. It’s draining – and I’m not even his caregiver! While the article talks about appropriate services, there aren’t the kind you’d find in the Western countries over here. I think it is important though, that extra help is given to caregivers, as they cannot be expected to look after the autistic person 24/7. Plus, I agree with the article that families with more severe problems get marginalised. Everything is “happy” in the media, but there are those with autism who aren’t going to live “normal” lives. Ever. But people don’t realise that. It frustrates me sometimes to see the side of autism in the media where people are “cured” (BAN that word in relation to autism FFS), where autistics get jobs and earn money and get married. Not all of them reach that stage!

But let’s finish off with this feel-good story about Joshua, who called 911 when his Mom had a bad fall, surprising everyone with his knowledge of what needed to be done. Just goes to show, special needs children absorb a lot of information, even when we’re not sure if they are!

Anyway, that’s all I got this week … till the next time!

May the Fourth be with you, always

IT’S STAR WARS DAY!!!

And right on time, I got an awesome press release drop in my inbox the other day… if you’re a Star Wars fan, you’ll like this one.

Rdio has put together a playlist to “make you feel like a Jedi” (YEAH I WANNA FEEL LIKE A JEDI!).  You can click on the direct link below to get to the music list.

May the Fourth be with you, and happy listening!

Star Wars Day Playlist by Rdio:  Direct link:  http://rd.io/x/QXgPYDPTcZk/

Track Listing:

  1. Main Title from Star Wars – John Williams – John Williams – Greatest Hits 1969-1999
  2. The Imperial March (Darth Vader’s Theme) – John Williams – The Music Of Star Wars: 30th Anniversary Collector’s Edition
  3. Princess Leia’s Theme – John Williams – The Music Of Star Wars: 30th Anniversary Collector’s Edition
  4. Yoda’s Theme – John Williams – The Music Of Star Wars: 30th Anniversary Collector’s Edition
  5. Binary Sunset (Alternate) (Medley) – London Symphony Orchestra;John Williams – Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
  6. Han Solo and the Princess – John Williams – Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
  7. The Asteroid Field – John Williams – Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
  8. The Throne Room/End Title (Medley) – John Williams – The Music Of Star Wars: 30th Anniversary Collector’s Edition
  9. Duel Of The Fates from Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace – John Williams;London Voices – Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
  10. The Emperor Arrives/The Death of Yoda/Obi-Wan’s Revelation (Medley) – John Williams – Star Wars Episode VI: Return Of The Jedi (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
  11. Anakin’s Betrayal (Episode III – Revenge of the Sith) – Global Stage Orchestra – Star Wars – The Story Continues
  12. Cantina Band – John Williams – The Music Of Star Wars: 30th Anniversary Collector’s Edition
  13. The Forest Battle (Concert Suite) – John Williams – Star Wars Episode VI: Return Of The Jedi (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
  14. Victory Celebration/End Title (Medley) – John Williams – The Music Of Star Wars: 30th Anniversary Collector’s Edition

 

What I’m reading about autism this week

I read quite a lot of news stories, watch videos, comment on blogs – all about autism – quite a lot. I realised it might be useful to record, and share, what these are!

Here’s the first in the series of my “What I’m reading about autism this week”.

Technically this isn’t a read at all (way to go Devina); it’s a YouTube video. A TED talk by geneticist Wendy Chung about the possible causes of autism, which uses hard-core science to try and find out what’s going on, and emphatically debunks the “vaccines cause autism” myth. Here’s a look:

The next story is one on BBC News, titled “Admiring Autism: Busting ‘autism myths’ with a camera“. It’s about a photographer, based in the UK, who has documented her experiences with her son and other families who deal with autism on a regular basis through the medium of photos. Sarah Dunn and her photographic journey can be followed on Facebook and Twitter.

Then it was off to the NY Times for an opinion piece called “Autism and the Agitator“. It’s essentially about Jenny McCarthy‘s sudden declaration that she’s been misunderstood and that she’s actually “pro-vaccine”. What do you think about this brouhaha, I’d be interested to know.

Potentially the most famous autistic in the world, Dr Temple Grandin participated in an online chat Q&A over at Talk About Autism. It happened on April 22, but you can still read the transcript over at the link.

And one of my favourite bloggers, Lisa Maree Domican has a guest post on her blog, titled “Guest post from Ethan, Eli and Jodi: Autism’s other half” and it features short write-ups from two young boys with autism, who have written from their perspective what they think about it! Loved the idea and the photos added to the post.

A feel-good story here about a Minecraft server called Autcraft – it’s for children with autism and their families.

Then I was following an interesting timeline by Stuart Duncan (also in the previous story), or as he is known on Twitter @autismfather. Here’s a look at some tweets a few days ago (there are more on his timeline, please have a look):

That’s all I’ve got this week… until the next time! 🙂

Documentary about children with autism in the UAE in progress

Documentary about children with autism in the UAE in progress

A press release landed in my inbox about a documentary about children with autism in the UAE. I already watched “The Brain That Sings” by Amal Al-Agroobi at the Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF) so another movie on the same topic was great news. Yes, there’s a lot of awareness nowadays in terms of campaigns, fundraisers, and so much more, but movies I think contribute a lot to the public understanding of autism.

At present, ‘autism’ is this thing that the public, I think, is aware of, but doesn’t really understand. Movies are a great visual way of connecting with them to say, THIS is what it is, and this is how it looks.

The new documentary is being directed by Tricia Regan which is part of The Autism Project, an initiative started by Her Highness Sheikha Shamsa bint Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, to raise awareness about autism.

The film features 10 children between the ages of 4 and 17, and are on different levels of the spectrum, as well as being from different backgrounds and nationalities.

Looking forward to seeing it!

 

Full press release: 

IMAGE NATION TO PRODUCE DOCUMENTARY ABOUT CHILDREN WITH AUTISM IN UAE

Project aims to raise awareness about Autism and inspire hope in families

Tricia Regan with the children
Tricia Regan with the children

Abu Dhabi, 2 April, 2014: Image Nation announced production of “As One”, a new feature-length documentary about Autism directed by Emmy Award-winning director Tricia Regan.

The film is part of The Autism Project, an initiative started by Her Highness Sheikha Shamsa bint Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, to raise awareness of Autism in the United Arab Emirates. Autism currently affects almost 1 in 50 children globally with more young people being diagnosed each year.

The documentary focuses on the children, parents and teachers involved in a unique theatrical and musical program in the UAE for children on the Autism spectrum. The culmination of the program was a musical staged for the cast’s friends and family, as well as UAE dignitaries.

Her Highness Sheikha Shamsa bint Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, said of the initiative: “It is my sincere hope that The Autism Project will have a positive impact on the lives of the children and families who are participating in it, and that this documentary will help to inform the wider UAE public about Autism and its nuances.”

“Overall, we want to ensure that our society does not fail to recognize and embrace the amazing skills and abilities of autistic children, and that these children are given the opportunity and confidence to be active members of our community”.

Mohammed Al Mubarak, Chairman of Image Nation said of the documentary: “The Autism Project is something that we are immensely proud of. Autism is such a prevalent condition in the UAE, but there is still a stigma attached to it”.

“We hope this film, and all the hard work from everyone involved, will help bring a sense of hope to families and increase awareness of this issue.”

Tricia Regan, the film’s award-winning director said: “I am very honored to have been invited to create a musical theatre program in the UAE for kids on the Autism spectrum, and to have had the privilege to direct this documentary film.”

“This is a story of magical kids and dedicated parents struggling to understand autism, and build meaningful lives for themselves. It is joyful, funny, and also often heart wrenching – as is most of life. Clearly cultures from all over the world are dealing with autism, and this film not only makes that clear, it also shows us that we are all more alike than we are different.”

The ten children who were chosen to take part in the film are between the ages of 4 and 17 and are at various levels on the Autistic spectrum. Children from different backgrounds and nationalities joined the musical and theatre program, reflecting the diverse and international community in the UAE.

Information about the Autism Project and the upcoming “As One” documentary is available on this website: http://www.asoneautism.ae

Principle photography has been completed and the film is expected to launch before the end of this year.

Contribute your voice to the initiative on Instagram – @AsOneAutism Facebook, As One: The Autism Project and Twitter @AsOneAutism.