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.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

The sea, the sand, the bands

The BDCN Summer Outing finally pushed through last weekend, and what a weekend it was. The weather cooperated with us long enough to fully enjoy whatever was planned in the program.

After arriving and having lunch, we went snorkeling a mile off the beach, and it was my first time. It took a while to get the hang of breathing through my mouth instead of my nose while biting on the air feeder hard enough to keep the salt water from filling my lungs. Disappointingly, we didn’t see too much coral (reportedly due to last month’s storm) but I still managed to see a few nifty things. There were jellyfish as big as my head, a color-changing cuttlefish, a blue sea star, low-swimming skates and the vague outline of an octopus taking a nap in a cave.

Our boat motored its way back to the beach just in time for the games, which I wasn’t really looking forward to. The rains conspired to sabotage them with a sudden downpour, but cleared up enough for the evening’s battle of the bands—the real reason I was in this outing.

We were six bands in all, but there was only one deserved winner and it sadly didn’t come from my team. Our band didn’t disappoint as we sang all upbeat songs. I tried getting people to move to Maroon 5’s “Sunday Morning” but I ended up getting joked the next day for taking to the stage drunk or drugged, hahaha! I gotta hand it to Tropical Monsoon though; they did our team proud by bagging second place. Had they chosen a better ending song, they would have brought home the bacon.

The rest of the time the guys were playing water polo in the pool, flag football and volleyball on the beach, and billiards, ping-pong and darts indoors.

It wasn’t the most eventful outing, but it sure made a lot of memories. My trusty Nikon FM SLR brought home two rolls of mementos for my team to fawn over on Monday.

Waiting for me at home was Uncle Butch’s promised graduation gift. I remember he wrote me about it back in my graduation in January, but I pretty much forgot about it until last Sunday.

I really didn’t have any idea of what it would be, but was I surprised to be the owner of a Sony CD Mavica digital camera. With it came a starter set of twenty 8cm CD-Rs and a CD-RW, one of them already loaded into the camera and with three pictures of the Chaingan family dog, Lucy.

It’s not new and it’s rather bulky, but I’ve read the MVC-CD500 was top-of-the-line three years ago, already packing a 5-megapixel CCD array—not too shabby! Unlike my mom’s Canon Digital Ixus 5, itself a 5-megapixel point-and-shooter, my CD Mavica has full manual control (shutter speed, aperture, even focus), a Carl Zeiss 3x optical zoom lens with decent range (~30-100mm), and a five-contact hot shoe for attaching external flash units.

It was just a shame it didn’t arrive in time for the outing. Many thanks, Uncle Butch! I’ll put this thing to good use.

Looks like I have enough money left over to buy some nifty stuff and have savings too. Suddenly that MG God Gundam doesn’t seem so far away.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Appearances can deceive

The longer I interact with my officemates, the more I learn about them and their personal lives.

Well, maybe that’s not something that should be considered out of the ordinary. However, I was in for a surprise when I learned some of them were not as I had assumed.

It was only yesterday that I learned that Mark, our resident guitarist and ladies’ man, took a vacation leave last week on his birthday. It turns out it was a week-long leave because he got married to his longtime sweetheart and had their honeymoon in that time. And he’s less than a year older than I am.

Over lunch this afternoon, I spotted a picture of a young girl inside my team lead Mylou’s wallet. I had innocently asked if it was her in her younger days. She replied that it was her nine-year-old daughter. I was frankly very surprised—I never heard a peep from her about having a daughter of her own before this. Mylou is just three years older than I am.

All the time I was practicing jamming along with Mark and our other bandmates for the company summer outing, playing badminton and joking around with Mylou, for the life of me, I had never ever expected them to have such serious commitments.

This leads me to wonder. I’m now twenty-three. I’ve had just one serious relationship. By and large, I’m still an egocentric entity existing in the world of anime, fast cars and giant robots. I tend to run away from problems or avoid them altogether. I don’t have much of a fortune I can call my own, nor do I have anything much to go on at the moment since I just got my first salary.

My folks were right: I’ve had too sheltered an upbringing and because of that my street smarts are close to nil. No matter how independent I think I am, the fact of the matter is I’m still chained to this invisible umbilical cord, and I’m probably too scared to cut it off and grow my own navel and mark my maturity.

How ready am I to face the world?

How ready am I to meet its challenges and disappointments, yet continue to grin and bear it?

How ready am I to commit to something as serious and irrevocable as marriage?

How ready am I to even think of having kids of my own?

The fact of the matter is, I am immature and everyone knows it—it’s written all over my face. I still haven’t grown up...at least not in the way the world expects me to have grown up, given my age. It’s a crappy feeling, me always thinking that I was better than everyone else...when actually, everyone else saw something a lot more important to surviving life in the long run. All the while, I just kept on missing the whole fucking point and continued indulging myself in my delusions of grandeur.

An old teacher friend of mine in high school once wrote me that she’d remember me as the guy who was always in a hurry to grow up. (Incidentally, she’s been married for a few years now.)


I wonder what the fuck happened to me along the way.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

I am worth my salt

My first-ever paycheck finally arrived on Thursday.

Now I realize just how much effort I have to put in to receive my salary every fortnight. In trying to budget my expenses, I feel I should be a lot more restrained in the things I buy if I want to make sure I have something left over for my lifetime savings venture.

At least I can still afford to drive myself to work everyday.

As I type this post, Bianca will have graduated already. My mom and dad are over there at the PICC Plenary Hall right now, probably sleeping through the thousand-odd graduates claiming their diplomas and tokens; such is the monotony of a DLSU commencement exercise.

Boring it may be, it’s still a pretty special event. Congratulations, sister.

She may have graduated and finished her studies, but even after 5 years of me ferrying her back and forth to wherever she has to go, I’m a little disappointed Bianca hasn’t learned the lesson of punctuality.

Someone has to get it into her head that the world is not going to wait for her. I just think it would be better if it were up to me or my dad to teach her that. At least that way, she wouldn’t have to risk learning the value of punctuality the hard way.

So what did I buy with my first salary?

The very first thing I got was a golf glove. It’s a Father’s Day present for my dad. Immediately following it were an air cleaner element for my car and an emissions testing certificate.

You see, except for dinner and PhP200 plunked down on Timezone, I haven’t really bought anything for myself so far.

I do have to say, I enjoyed the time I spent on Wangan Midnight Maximum Tune 2. Damn, I missed that game. Getting perfect drifts in my black Mazda RX-8, with armfuls of opposite lock applied and sweat funneling down my temples in concentration—that’s my idea of serious fun.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Showing my true colors

ColorQuiz.comJM took the free ColorQuiz.com personality test!

"Hopes that ties of affection and good-fellowship w..."

Click here to read the rest of the results.

I never knew a simple color test would tell so much about myself. Creepy.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Of quizzes, finances and dating

At work, Kaye and Vlad got us a few time wasters over email to pore over. They were mostly Excel spreadsheets made into interesting quizzes and games, such as the Name Game (guessing common first names of celebrities), the Jologs Quiz (tests your memory of Pinoy pop culture from the 1970s onward), and the Epol Apple test (how well you can translate Filipino words into English).

The Filipino-English translation quizzes were the most appealing to me. One of them even mocks you for mistranslation, saying things such as “Bobo!” or “Pilipino ka ba?!” Of course these quizzes are not a formal benchmark, but our difficulty in translating these common words correctly shows just how our language skills have deteriorated as we got older. We’ve gotten used to speaking Taglish that our proficiency in either pure English or Filipino has suffered a great lot.

My personal favorite, though, was the one about Filipino advertisements and taglines. It’s had me scratching my head, trying to match the slogan or tagline with the products and brands.

See posters and print ads for details, indeed.

My first paycheck is due this Thursday. I can’t wait.

I’m still trying to work out just how much of that initial pay-out I’m going to save, and how much I’m going to spend on stuff I like or need. This time I’ll have to take into account how much I spend for gasoline and my weekly expenses. I have to be a lot more prudent this time, especially now that I know first-hand just how hard it is to earn any money.

The last thing I want to find myself in is in massive debt. For heaven’s sake, I’m not American.

At least I’m off to a good start: I saved up enough money from my allowance last week to buy myself an oil filter wrench and oil filter for my car by Friday. I even treated myself to some Mongolian take-out after four days of bringing my own lunch, and I still had some money left over for the weekend. All this was after I had set aside my substantial weekly deposit.

Not too shabby, I should say.

After a month or so doing little things, I’m starting off doing my real job on Tuesday. I will do what I was paid to do: be a professional nitpicker.

Looking back at the girls I’ve taken a liking to over the years, I find myself asking “Why did I ever like her anyway?” Sure, they all had places in my heart, but time has afforded me another look at things and I can now honestly say most of them weren’t eternal beauties or an ideal fit with my personality. Some of them even had the most irritating of personality quirks: Followers of this blog know how I despised the unfounded jealousy of my ex—and I’ve never cheated on anyone.

I really want to start over.

Angiela told me over dinner two weeks ago that girls like to “tame” unpredictable guys, that they like it when guys don’t pay them too much attention. That way they’d get the guys to notice them.

Hmmm. If that’s true I think I’ve been doing things the wrong way all this time. So my ill-temperedness and cold-shoulder demeanor are actually positive traits in the dating game?

I’m not too keen on making mistakes...but it seems I’ll have to embarrass myself at least a few times before I get to that point where I can avoid them entirely.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Much ado about...pond scum?!

It’s funny how something that looks so much like fermented piss or pond scum has people my age outdoing one another for the last drop in the office pantry.

It’s supposed to be iced green tea. Whatever. I’ll gladly take the hot kind, thanks.

According to some surveys from my choir’s Yahoo group, I’m 24% fat and just 48% Pinoy.

I always knew I was a misplaced soul.

Hangad is just not the kind of music you should be listening to when trying to keep awake.

For the past three months, I find myself always looking for Gundam kits to buy, but never with the cash on hand to spend on them. There are still a few kits I’d like to add to my collection, but now I think I see the hobby for what it is: an expensive folly not for frequent consumption. I mean, I really could spend the money on other things, such as my savings and paying for my car’s long-overdue repairs. Ever since I bought the HG Gundam Airmaster Burst and the MG Zeta Gundam Ver.2.0, I haven’t bought anything new.

Only two kits are in my head for now: the MG God Gundam and the upcoming MG Gundam F91, two of the most compact Gundam-series mobile suits ever. Both make do with extensive use of ABS plastic and a minimum of polycaps.

The much-delayed F91 does away with polycaps altogether. It will make for an interesting build, at the very least. It’s due out next month.

Maybe I should be prudent and opt for the MG God for now. At least the dent it’ll make on my wallet won’t be as substantial, and I’ll be able to get it sooner.

The insurance claim is under way, thank goodness. My car’s damage was estimated at PhP6,440, and the insurance will pay for more than 2/3 that amount.

Besides the cosmetic damages, my car really is crying out for a thorough suspension repair. Those bouncy rear shocks can only last for so long. I’ll need to save for this so I can get it done ASAP.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Twenty factoids

  1. I am 5’8” and now weighing 162 lb., which by BMI (body mass index) standards is just below overweight. I have finally started losing the weight I gained three years ago when my ex and I were still an item, thank God.

  2. Only my relatives call me Michael or Mike; everyone else calls me JM.

  3. The only place in the Philippines I’ve been to besides the island of Luzon is Bacolod, Negros Occidental.

  4. Currently my favorite place is Maple Valley, WA—just outside the bounds of Seattle.

  5. I dislike a number of local foods like dinuguan and sinigang sa bayabas.

  6. One of the definitively painful phases in my existence was the time I got outcast in sixth grade. I had to contend with being despised, ignored and called “Mr. Bean” by people who hardly knew me.

  7. I try every which way to conform to other people, but more often than not they seem to conform to me. I guess I’m already at the point when I can’t change anything about my personality anymore.

  8. Coffee is good. However it’s not worth blowing your wallet on. Hence my dislike for premium coffee establishments.

  9. Alcoholic drink of choice: Smirnoff Mule.

  10. Cold non-alcoholic drink of choice: A&W Cream Soda. That stuff will kill me.

  11. Whenever possible, I will opt to drive to a particular destination.

  12. I absolutely love salpicao. Bring on the garlic.

  13. I listened to pretty old music growing up. In third grade I listened to nothing but the Beatles. Soon after, I got weaned on 1960s Motown, the Dave Clark Five, the Zombies and The Doors.

  14. I used to read encyclopedia volumes as a kid to go to sleep. Nowadays I don’t read that much anymore...not too many novels, anyway.

  15. Carlos, an old friend of mine, taught me how to sketch people with proper proportions. I am eternally grateful to him.

  16. Over the years my dad has amassed an awesome cassette collection sent to him before piecemeal by his friend Al, while he was still based in New York.

  17. In the words of my friend Grace, I am transparent. I am physically incapable of hiding what I feel...which makes me a bad liar and a worse poker player.

  18. The best thing about most journeys is the journey itself. Most times I am disappointed with the destination.

  19. This list was done while I was feeling sleepy.

  20. My earnest wish is to be able to live my life without having to apologize for or regret anything.