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, November 23, 2006

At long last

We finally have a new monitor! Hurrah!

I was looking around for CRT monitors because I still wasn’t convinced that the ever-cheapening LCD variety would serve our home computer well. PC Magazine Philippines wrote in their “Monitors LCD vs. CRT” piece last year that LCD monitors don’t work very well outside their “native resolution,” or the actual count of the pixels of the display. That means games and video playback tend to suffer from “ghosting.” It doesn’t help that response times at 8-16ms aren’t as instantaneous as CRTs. Besides, the price is still rather high in my view. I could get a decent 15” CRT for PhP5,000.

My parents thought differently though: since this is effectively an upgrade, we might as well trade up to the best we could afford. So they were all sold on the merits of LCD monitors, such as the low power consumption and the space savings.

When I got home two days ago with the CD-Rs my dad wanted, he casually asked me “Have you seen the new monitor?” I was surprised.

Sitting on the desk was a silver-bezel Samsung SyncMaster 940BW monitor: a 19” LCD beast of a monitor. The thing’s got an aspect ratio of 16:10, significantly wider than the 4:3 of usual monitors. But it was still an LCD and I had my doubts. This called for some testing.

I booted up my games and played a few minutes of “Turn-A Gundam,” both at full screen and at various resolutions. Not bad! There was barely any shimmer or ghosting, and it wasn’t enough to be an annoyance. I found out from the promotional decal of the monitor that it sported a fast response time of 4ms from gray to gray. If anything, the Samsung is ridiculously bright.

In my spare time I researched the Samsung 940BW online. My parents made a very good choice, it seems. It’s reportedly one of the best monitors around at this price range (PhP14,000). Although it’s not ideal for graphics work and Photoshop, it’ll cover home PC duties very well, or so the reviews say.

What can I say...I’m actually pleased I was wrong.

The monitor had an unexpected extra with it. My folks threw in a new keyboard, the A4Tech kL-5. This thing has no numeric keypad, which saves space, but seems to jam all the keys in a small footprint, which means the auxiliary keys I’ve learned to use on a full-size keyboard are in new places I’m not so familar with. It’s also a quiet unit which purportedly reduces RSI (repetitive strain injury), but I’ve never been a fan of shallow laptop keyboards, which this one feels like.

Oh well. At least it matches the monitor.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Ate Edith's birthday

Ate Edith had me and the SVMM people over at her place for her birthday. Let me rave about her spaghetti: despite being a sweet blend (the kind I usually don’t like), she put in two whole heads of garlic, Italian seasoning, mushrooms and red bell peppers for great effect. Very delicious.

It’s been a while since the choir met like this and I was simply drinking up the noise and the laughter from my friends. One month more and I can safely say I’ve spent one year with SVMM. It hasn’t been without its down moments, and I do have questions about the commitment of some of my choir mates, but overall I’m glad I’m part of it.

Another impending farewell

My blog started five years ago with news of our old AE101 Corolla 1.6 being prepped for sale. Now it’s the City’s turn.

There’s still a lot to be done before it can be sold, such as dent repair and repainting, which means a sale isn’t as imminent as it may seem. I’m still reluctant to let it go, though. It’s easily the most frugal vehicle in our stable (I’m still achieving a consistent 10-11+ km/L), the easiest to park and maneuver, the lightest and arguably the most enjoyable to drive.

We’ll be hunting for another second-hand vehicle as a replacement. With my mom’s bias for Toyotas though, I’m afraid I’ll be saying goodbye to all of the things I liked about my car, as I’ve never really enjoyed driving her ZZE121 Corolla Altis, either because of its “driving on stilts” responses or its atrocious driving position.

I’m still waiting for that Honda Jazz 1.5V to come my way. Whichever transmission, I already know from my test drives that I’ll appreciate it a lot.

Too good to give away...

I was in Alabang Town Center last weekend to shop for some Christmas presents. Why don’t I look for the shoes to gift my trainer with? I figured. While I had intended to get him a good pair, I’m not about to break my wallet on shoes—most especially shoes as gifts. So I kept a strict limit on budget.

I passed through the typical stores: Nike, Adidas, The Athlete’s Foot. My general qualm was their merchandise was just too expensive, and not all of it was particularly fetching either. I did get my mom’s present at Nike though. As a final stop, I went into Olympic World.

The shoes on display were a surprise. The moment I laid my eyes on Mizuno’s Incision futsal sneakers, I was instantly drawn. It looked like no other shoe I’ve seen: it was black on the outside edge, silver on the inner edge, and red at the heel. (I know the photo I posted doesn't match my description.) It’s a fusion of Nike’s Total 90 futsal/football shoe, with its shine, offset laces and extended tongue, and their expensive-but-suave Nike Free 7.0 Trainer, with its split-colored upper. Unlike the Trainer, the Incision cost about half of its PhP4,400, and you can have it with outdoor-use molded cleats for just PhP100 more.

Right there and then I had second thoughts: it looks and costs too damn good to be given away. When I showed up in church wearing them the next day, Jajah couldn’t have enough of them. Aileen told me I should keep them.

Besides, she said, in this day and age, giving away new shoes to a relative stranger can bring about negative implications about my sexuality, no matter how good the intentions. Now I don’t really know about this: I’ve kept the Mizuno Incisions for myself, but I still plan to buy the guy a pair of cheap-but-good sneakers as a present.

I guess I was too carried away by the looks to fit the Mizunos properly. Looking back, the ones I got are a tad cramped at the toes; I should have opted for the 9.5 size. However, I’ve used them for a few badminton games, a taebo routine and jogging on a treadmill and they’re pretty good so far. Jogging with them was surprisingly comfortable. Mizuno’s reputation as an underrated but excellent athletic shoe is confirmed, and they can definitely add “stylish” to their CV now too with the Incision series.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Tales from the crypt

All Saints’ Day started ominously enough with a column by Andre Palma on the Inquirer: Ultimately this day is one of remembering. While Palma chose to remember the cars he drove growing up, I chose to remember something else.

I tagged along with my dad to Baliwag on our annual visit to the family grave. Of the five or six names there, the only tomb I’m familar with is of my grandfather’s, who died in 1992. I was all but nine years old then, and we weren’t exactly what you could call close. I hardly knew the guy. All I really knew was that he was a doctor and he was born in 1919.

At my dad’s ancestral home in Baliwag, with the de Leon clan at the dining table, we were talking about my granddad for what seemed like the first time ever. Well, perhaps not, but it’s the first time I remember hearing anything more about him that I didn’t already know.

It was a surprise learning that he never intended to become a doctor; he simply took the course because his parents wanted him to. What he really wanted to become was an engineer. That didn’t stop him from placing within the top ten of the board exams, though. It seems he didn’t practice medicine; the ancestral home has obvious traces of being a pharmacy once. Tita Vik said that once in a while, he’d observe structures and buildings and comment on how they could be made better. Whenever he did that, he was in a world of his own.

A little segue here: My cousin Carlo is currently in his third year of high school in La Salle Greenhills, and he was asking me about college, entrance exams and my experiences at work. (Good lord, he’s already much taller than I am at 5’10”.) He says his forte for now is geometry, while chemistry is something he could be better at.

When I asked him about what he was planning to take up in college, he didn’t pick any particular course—all he said was he wanted to extend his grasp of geometry, and a BS Math degree is out of the question. When I told him he might have a future as an engineer, his eyes lit up in agreement. After hearing my granddad’s story, he remarked the will to be an engineer might have been passed down to him.

It was a day of remembering, all right. I’m very thankful for it.

Normally, the North Luzon Expressway is transformed into a crawling parking lot on holidays like All Saints’ Day and the end of Holy Week. So you can imagine my surprise when on the way home, the traffic stayed in the Cagayan Valley road leading to the towns and cities of Baliwag, none of it leaking into the NLEX.

Using the NLEX is expensive: even with a claimed lower cost per kilometer than the SLEX I’m all too familiar with, the stops up north are spaced much farther apart. However you can really see where the expense goes on the NLEX. The asphalt is smooth, the four lanes are wide enough for Americans to be comfortable with, and the traffic jam I was expecting to get stuck in was nowhere to be found along its length. With Pinoys being Pinoys, there are still idiots who don’t know what a passing lane is, but even so it’s surprisingly manageable. There’s even an electronic toll payment system called the EC-tag, mimicking the more popular E-pass of the SLEX.

All I can say is...wow. If this is the price of progress, I’ll gladly pay. Just don’t count on me making frequent trips to Bulacan or Baguio all by my lonesome.

In the halcyon days of high school I used to buy the US edition of PC Magazine—it was still relatively cheap at PhP150 or so. This was one of the expenses I had growing up that, in hindsight, was ultimately utterly pointless. I was too poor (or rather not willing) to spend on the latest processors, CD-ROM drives and graphics cards, although being the gullible geek I was at the time I was amazed just reading about them and what they could do.

My old prof Gary Mariano had a point: He buys computer magazines only when he’s looking for upgrades to his computer or shopping for a new one. After that, he ignores them completely. The point is simple enough: Everything in a computer magazine is intended to make you feel like your system is obsolete.

Over time, the peso weakened and the US version of PC Magazine became hideously expensive. So not long ago, PC Magazine Philippines was born, published by Hinge Inquirer Publications (also known, rather arrogantly, as “hip”). It sells for PhP100 and is considerably cheaper and thinner than the ad-packed US version. You already know about how I’m looking for a new monitor, so I decided to buy the recent issue.

I wasn’t prepared for the irony that awaited me. Art Ilano’s column “Next Wave” had a piece called “An Embarrassment of Storage Space,” and it talked about the pointlessness of Blu-ray and HD-DVD, the much-ballyhooed optical media of the near future. “Blu-ray and HD-DVD are coming,” he says. “Now just what are we going to do with them?” Unlike the migration from CD-ROM to DVD, where DVD movies brought extra features, Ilano says there’s no compelling reason to move up to these new disks with huge capacities.

I am amazed. Here’s a guy who writes for a magazine that is determined to make me part with my money in the endless pursuit of better computing and avoidance of obsolescence. But here he was, preaching a different gospel—a gospel of the pointlessness of some of the technology we are influenced to buy.

Color me impressed.