about the talking fish

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Writer. Wheelman. Occasional DIY mechanic. Walking collection of hang-ups. Hopeless romantic. Old-school. Analog soul in a digital world. I am all of these things and more.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

A random song on a random day

Even though she’s on my mind
Even though she’s hard to find
Even though, there’s always something with you

Even though she’s right on time
Even though she’s always lying
Even though, there’s always something with you

I know we don’t talk about it
I know that that’s true

I know we don’t talk about it
I’m so scared when I’m losing you

Even though she just stopped trying
Even though I can’t stop crying
Even though, there’s always something with you

I know we don’t talk about it
I know that that’s true

I know we don’t talk about it
I’m so lonely away from you

Even though, even though
Even though, there’s always something with you

— Sugar Ray, “Even Though”

Week 1 of (at least) 104.

It’s been my first week at work and I haven’t really been able to do anything much except read training materials. It seems the HR people haven’t given me and my fellow new-joiners Gerald and Jho some necessities for us to work, so we’ve been relegated to observation and reading for now as we can’t even access the computers on our desks. HR seems to have a lot on its hands.

Although the first three days at Robinsons Cybergate Tower 1 have been rather boring, I feel lucky this was the project I was rolled into. Without disclosing anything that might get my neck in trouble at super-secretive Accenture, my first project deals with financial services, so it’s familiar turf for my parents as they were/are employees of banks. From first impression, my coworkers are a nice bunch of people. Paolo Jaucian introduced us on our first day and he immediately told us we were “too uptight” and we needed to loosen up—I guess that says a lot about my officemates already.

Every Thursday they had a regular meet going on at Sheridan Badminton and so I joined in. I’m glad there are quite a few of us who are skilled, so I can play the same way I did in Villamor Air Base. One of my senior team leaders, Trinity, was inviting me for a trip to faraway Ilocos over the extended Labor Day weekend, and they were leaving on Friday night. I was frankly surprised to be invited at such short notice. I couldn’t take them up on the offer, but I did promise to come along on the coming company summer outing on the 13th in Batangas.

I’ve been driving my way to Cybergate since Wednesday, and so the issue of parking made itself known early on. Fortunately, Robinsons Pioneer (which is literally the next building to ours) has an ongoing promo where you can park for free when you get receipts worth PhP300, and my officemates just so happen to have something in place to collect receipts. I’m glad parking costs won’t be an issue for a while. I hope I can stretch my fuel tank to two weeks, though. With gas prices as they are these days, I might be forced to commute soon enough.

Overall I’m really glad to be at Accenture so far. At this point I’m actually itching to do some hands-on work, which I got a sampling of last Friday. It’s not the most thrilling of jobs, but it’s at least something I understand and can probably do well. I’m taking it in stride for now. I hope things stay like this. If I’m going to be here at least two years I might as well enjoy.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Goodbye bumhood...with a bang.

Yesterday was a rather special occasion.

It was another one of Honda Club Philippines’ monthly general EBs, and it coincided with the Auto Focus People’s Choice Awards, much in the same way last month’s EB coincided with the Ford Focus Rally Experience. Both events meant a host of test drives was in order. It was even better now because this time there were so many manufacturers offering test drives, whereas Ford was the only one last time round.

HCP had its own open display there among the manufacturers’ glitzy tents. We celebrated the four generations of Civics that made it to our shores—the boxy EF of 1988-1991, the iconic EG of 1992-95, the low-riding EK of 1996-2000, and the mature ES of 2001-05. No one had yet taken possession of a brand-spanking-new FD, which was the highlight of Honda Cars Philippines’ booth and test drives.

There was a queue of people wanting to get behind the wheel of the sole FD Civic demonstrator, a cheapest-spec 1.8V. While I awaited my turn behind the FD1’s wheel, I decided to apply for a test drive of the Mazda 6 2.3.

The 6 was good for its size, and it felt like its bodywork shrank around my steering and throttle inputs—always a good thing for a driver’s car. The automatic gearbox’s manual mode was less laggy than the Focus 2.0 hatchback, too, and there was a way of learning to lessen the lag on upshifts (let go of the gas momentarily at upshift). My only complaint was with the brakes. For such a driver-oriented car, this thing has snatchy anchors that can be difficult to modulate at times. I had a feeling the transmission was performing downshifts at the same time.

When I got out of the mature-but-sporty 6 (and parallel-parked it pretty damn well), there were still five or so people in line for the Civic before my turn. Since the GD3 Jazz 1.5 CVT wasn’t seeing that much action, I signed up for that test drive as well, my previous test too ridiculously short to gauge anything.

Like the 6, the gray GD3 was also a nippy number. Though slightly unintuitive, the CVT’s 7-speed manual mode and its rocker switches kept the little VTEC engine on the boil as I drove it at a fast cruise around some of the Fort’s back roads. There’s more verve from down low compared to my City, too. My main gripe is with the electrically-assisted steering. While it’s faithful and accurate enough, it really does feel like driving in an arcade machine as there’s zero feedback from the wheel. No unpleasant kickback comes through and there’s gains in fuel economy, but I’d really rather have a hydraulic helm. It’s easier to park than the 6.

My turn finally came up for the silver FD1 Civic, and thank heaven it had a proper manual gearbox and three pedals. While early on I judged heel-and-toe shifts impossible to do on this car’s drive-by-wire throttle pedal set too low, it was also early on that I learned to trust this car with the kind of fast-clip driving I usually do on my old SX8 City. Major kudos to that.

The steering wheel is a revelation. While passengering Mikko, Emi and Patrick were navigating me through the bumpier but sweeping back roads of the Fort, I was having fun rowing through the gears and carrying confident speed. The small-radius, flat-bottomed, hydraulic-assisted tiller was more alive with information than either of the two previous cars and it delivered even better feedback than my City, and I could forgive the hardness of its plastic. The gearbox isn’t quite as intuitive, but it snicked into gear with gusto paired with feather-light clutch action. The R18A i-VTEC engine’s urge was very linear, delivering un-Honda-like pull from the sort of low RPMs that my City’s D15B7 would shudder in its engine mounts from. Not seeing the end of the hood is a challenge at first but I found it didn’t get in the way of visibility all that much. It’s just a matter of getting used to the broad upward-sloping dashboard, as I parallel-parked it still with ease.

Later I passengered in the 2.0S FD2 Civic that Mikko loaned from Honda Cars Philippines officer Mr. Peren, this time to test the ride quality and space behind. This had an electronic tiller in place of the FD1’s hydraulic-boosted steering wheel, but former circuit racer Mikko attested the electric steering assist was way better than the Jazz’s. It’s as if the steering was hydraulic.

Mikko floored the throttle in second gear all the way to redline and 101 km/h. The K20A3 i-VTEC engine emptied its guts in a powerful, linear surge, pinning Emi, Patrick and I to the rear bench. He was considerably more lead-footed than I was. At the back, we were pretty comfortable and the ride was very supple, considering the kind of driving Mikko David was doing. When he tested the ABS in a full-bore stop from 80 km/h, he remarked on the refinement of the stoppers’ imperceptible pumping action. It was as if the car had simply locked up its brakes, but didn’t.

No points for guessing that I was most thoroughly impressed by the new FD-series Civic, then. That amount of driving fun for just PhP767,000? My appetite’s whetted already.

That evening we went to Aruba Bar in Metrowalk, Ortigas Center, to watch the San Marino Grand Prix with the rest of the F1 Club of the Philippines guys. Eva and a much-missed Angiela were screaming their lungs out with glee when Fernando Alonso trailed Michael Schumacher over 30+ laps in a tense battle for the lead. Former HCP president Juno was chanting “come back my money!!!” when he placed his bet for the top 3 finishers of the race. He wailed “der goz my money!!!” when he lost out on the betting, as Alonso slipped behind Schumacher 5 laps from the checkered flag.

Capping it all off was a relaxing high-speed cruise along C5 on the way home. Damn, that day was fun. It was a fitting end to my final day as a bum.

Today was my first day at work, which is basically part of a two-day orientation not far from Accenture’s Libran House HR office in Makati. Meeting my fellow “new joiners” was very nice and most of them were a fun bunch. By Wednesday a few of us would be starting at Cybergate and Makati Stock Exchange.

I wonder what this job has in store for me...

Friday, April 21, 2006

Too damn hot in here.

I met with my old friend Paolo today and got to see his girlfriend too. We met over my very old tripod, which their group borrowed last month and for some reason got broken at the gear connected to the crank to raise or lower its head. One of the gear’s sixteen teeth got totally stripped and two got bent out of alignment.

Both of us were starting work pretty soon, with me ahead by three weeks. He was going back to Zobel, as I thought, on May 15th as a computer science teacher for the high school seniors. His monthly salary’s much higher than mine, though, which is really great and I’m happy for him. When I met him he was doing last-minute preparations for a sportswriting seminar he was holding.

As for me, I have no plans of going back to Zobel ever again. The thought of returning as a teacher crossed my mind, but it’d be best if I left that school altogether and burned it out of my memories as much as possible.

I can say now that I was never truly happy in Zobel. I spent too long in that fishbowl largely as a misfit. Looking for my happiness took too damn long and too much of my energy from what I should really have been doing.

After the trouble of getting my NBI clearance, getting an NSO-authenticated birth certificate was a walk in the park. I am very glad the National Statistics Office, through its E-Census facility (http://www.e-census.com.ph), gives you the option to apply for any documents of theirs you need online.

Application is straightforward, though it could be a little more intuitive. It’s paying for your request that could pose some problems. The e-mail E-Census gave me said any Equitable PCI Bank and Union Bank branches can accept payment of the request. However, when I went to Equitable’s branch in DLSU, the manager didn’t know what to make of the acknowledgement e-mails I had with me.

A lot closer to home, I finally got to pay at Union Bank Bicutan. No questions asked, they accepted my payment. What’s more, I received the birth certificate I applied for this afternoon, in the mail. That sure beats going to the NSO’s Times St. building and waiting in line in the sweltering heat.

Now why can’t more government agencies act like that?

Ever since I recovered from my last fever and headache, I find the summer heat has been oppressive. My condition’s fine for the most part, but strangely I still have hints of dizziness and light-headedness hounding me. Once it hit me while driving home with my sister and our pug Cooper on board because I felt uncomfortably heated.

I’m trying to avoid salty food and lack of sleep to remedy this, and I’ve been drinking like a camel these days too.

Now if only something can be done about the other nasty thing summer seems to bring: lots and lots of lousy, stupid drivers with no lane courtesy whatsoever. Goodness.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Things I learned this week

- Intense midday heat + midnight cold + exhaustion - willingness to sleep = sickness.

- Driving can cure a recurring headache and fever.

- Planning to get an NBI clearance certificate? Bring a fan, water, spare shirts and lots of patience.

- Oh, and make sure you’ve eaten. You don’t want to faint while in line, trust me...and the NBI Carriedo center has long ones.

- In the Philippines at least there is a world of difference between government offices and private ones. Requesting and paying for a certification in DLSU took no more than 15 minutes. Doing the same for an NBI clearance meant 2 hours in oppressive heat and very long lines.

- When thinking of commuting death sentences to life imprisonment, first think of just how crowded (ergo potentially unhealthy) our country’s jails are.

- Laughter really is the best medicine. I was laughing at the antics of WWE WrestleMania 22 last night and my confused temperature actually dropped 0.3 degrees Celsius.

- Everything really is better in the morning.

This Holy Week was a lot more special than all that preceded it because I was in the company of my friends in the choir.

It’s easy to brush off Holy Week as an expensive irrelevance where the Church can strut its stuff when you don’t participate in all the celebration. Whether it was getting lost driving to seven churches or singing in the Easter vigil, this time around I was immersed in everything and for once, Easter felt definitive and very real.

I should cut down on my diet. I’m not getting any thinner and frankly I feel a little stupid these days.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Not of this earth.

What Planet Are You From?

this quiz was made by The Autist Formerly Known As Tim

"The Ever-Structured Saturn. I am the law and boundry. I hold chaos in my hand and tell it where to go."

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Gone to the dogs

Lately our entire household has turned dog-crazy, when previously it was solely Bianca who was adamant about her love of dogs. I guess the catalyst for all this was Cooper’s arrival.

The little brown bundle of joy has managed to win over the hearts of my parents. My mom fawns over the pug every day. Nowadays we set aside money for brand-name dog food and dog treats so Cooper can be comfortable running amok in our house. Thanks to Bianca’s efforts he even knows how to fetch things—granted, it’s the only trick we’ve taught him so far, but it’s a start. Now that we’ve taught tricks, I’m surprised how smart dogs can be. To my biggest surprise, even my dad has taken a liking to the little runt, actually letting him inside the house from time to time.

The attention to Cooper hasn’t left our old mutt Tango out in the cold. Tango shares Cooper’s benefits of dog food and treats and my mom’s affection. He was never really a hard dog to love, after all—just not the kind you can teach tricks to because of his fear of balls. In the heat of the summer, nothing is more welcome for him than a long nap inside the dining room. Tango actually outdoes Cooper because he’s housebroken. In contrast, Cooper the “pooper” can be all too eager to leave his mark on the dining room floor.

Soon I’m told there’ll be another addition to our dog family apart from the slobbering Cooper. Our next door neighbor wants to sell off their Shih Tzu puppies. Since we’re simply next door and they could always check with us, they decided to give one to us.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Before I go to work...

Before I go to work the HR department had a list of requirements I had to accomplish and submit. One of the standard ones was the medical exam.

After submitting the forms for a new bank account that will collect my payroll, I drove off to Patient First Medical Center in Glorietta 3 for the medical exam. I ran into my old college acquaintance Mark Hizon there and found out he was also due to work for Accenture in a BPO position. Due to the long wait and the longer lines of people (the clinic should have been called Patience First, ha ha!), he and I eventually spent the better part of the morning and the afternoon together. We were both sick of bumming around and suffering cabin fever in our houses, and we swapped stories of the college life we left not so long ago.

A token step of the medical exam was the obtaining of urine and stool samples. Being new to all this, and not really being fond of excrement, Mark and I constantly made fun of the fact that we were supposed to shit into a little cup and bring it to the lab within two hours. We also jabbed about the girls in the line taking considerably longer to fill a small bottle with piss than most of the guys.

It’s nice knowing I won’t really be alone in my first job, even though Mark is in BPO. He said his first assignment was in Cubao’s Gateway Mall, and I told him reportedly the “bench” for new programmers was somewhere in Cubao as well, so we might bump into each other in the future.

I have a few more documents to secure before I can start on the 24th. I’ll be a little busy.

I was excited about getting my HG 1/100 Gundam Airmaster Burst model kit from After War Gundam X back in 1996. After building it I came off very, very disappointed.

The limbs are the fly in the ointment. The arms are shockingly weak, consisting of only a polycap-to-polycap connection at the elbow which has me dubious of its longevity. The legs are hollow and very weak at the knees, where any effort to pose the back-heavy model results in falling on its shoulders. Ultimately, the Airmaster Burst’s design is its biggest demon. Because of the MS design and its transformation, most of its weight (wings, cannons and intakes) is on its shoulders and oriented rearward.

I really should have kept the money and saved a little harder for an ultra-posable MG God Gundam. Now I have a little promise to myself not to buy kits older than 1999—unless they’re MGs.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

A new chapter beckons

I haven’t been updating my blog as often as before and yes I’m aware of that. There is only so much I can write when I am mired at home, aimless and bored.

The good news is it doesn’t have to be that way anymore. After applying, taking their test 9 months ago, Accenture finally gave me a job offer as junior software engineer.

I was at their Libran House office (the HR center) last Wednesday and they presented me with a rather thick-looking contract, peppered with confidentiality clauses. I didn’t get to read everything, but I did a quick skim of the contents and I understood the gist of it. (Damn, I wish I asked for a reference copy.) Basically it’s a computer programming position and they’ll train me for it, which makes sense since my degrees have absolutely nothing to do with programming. If I do decide to accept it, I’ll have to stay with them until 2008, exactly two years from now.

My dad says it’s a good enough offer; I should think of it as taking a master’s degree while being paid. What is a couple of years, he reckons. Jajah and Aileen have showed their support as well, but they cautioned me about frequent overtime sessions.

As it is I’m on the brink of giving them a yes. I do wonder about how well I’d cope in the environment, though. I can probably learn to like my job and my potential teammates. Sacrificing the numerous pending applications I’ve submitted comes to mind, but at this point in time I simply cannot stand stagnating at home. I feel bad about freeloading off my parents, sure, but more than anything I’ve never really been a fan of long vacations. Although it’s technically just three months after my graduation, in reality it feels like I’ve been stagnant for a very, very long time.

I simply hope I’ll do well and I get to like what I do. Two years isn’t quite a short time, but perhaps it’s manageable enough.

Auntie Nellie and Auntie Doris were here from San Francisco, and they went over for my mom’s birthday today. It’s very nice seeing them again. They were always asking me when I’d be able to go back to the West Coast...I just told them nothing’s set in stone. They seemed happy I was finally going to be employed (soon enough, anyway). Apparently, programmers earn a lot in the United States...

Looking back, it’s a wonder my blog has lasted as long as it has. I’ve constantly wondered how much time and effort I’d be able to devote to writing my random mumblings on this little piece of online real estate. (Online real estate? Now that’s an oxymoron.) Somehow my love of writing has always pulled through.

Now that I’ll be working though, I’m not sure if I’ll have the luxury of extra time and effort to invest here. I’d love to keep on going, but I’m not sure if writing about the everyday inanity of the working world will be as, erhm, “inspiring” as my halcyon college days. I’m pretty sure those confidentiality clauses in my contract will restrict me somehow, too.

I guess whatever will be, will be. I’d like to thank my readers and visitors in advance, in case I suddenly disappear and never get to write again (heaven forbid). I just hope you enjoyed the five years of life I’ve put on this page.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Waiting for tomorrow

Today the new FD-series Civic was launched in the Philippine market. I have to say I’m rather excited about it, more so than the painfully bland ES-series of five years ago.

To date, what I know about the FD is that it comes with two four-cylinder engines: a brand-new 1.8-liter SOHC i-VTEC unit called the “R18A,” good for 140 BHP and good fuel economy; and the mainstay “K20A” 2.0L DOHC i-VTEC unit good for 155 BHP. Both engines are mated to either a 5-speed manual gearbox (hurray!) or a 5-speed automatic transmission with paddle-shifters as manual override. With the FD comes one of the most radical interiors I’ve ever seen on a car of its class, with a genuinely useful split dashboard. On sale now, it can be yours from PhP780,000 to a high of PhP1.1 million.

Like many Hondas of recent past, the only real nitpick I have on the FD is its rear styling. The brake lights are too big and round; they could have been stolen from a Chevy Impala.

My car now needs a fresh rear brake/park light. The right one seems to have burnt out its 21W filament. Add to that a new air filter and oil filter as part of my 60,000-kilometer periodic maintenance check.

I might as well take this chance to drop by the Honda dealership tomorrow and see the FD in the metal.

Speaking of tomorrow, Migs of MP is delivering me my next Gundam model kit, a 1/100 HG Gundam Airmaster Burst from “After War Gundam X.” It’s been 3 months since my last kit and I can’t wait.