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.

Monday, December 31, 2007

2007 was a good year for...

Technology. I can describe this year in two words: "gadget pr0n." The sheer amount of time I spent ogling technology and gadget websites...bliss. Doesn't hurt that I bought a USB-capable DVD player and head unit, and the Nokia 5310 rounds out that list.

Cars and modification. I traded up to the Jazz and swapped my head unit, horn, steering wheel and headlights when all of them developed faults. Speakers are next...and, when I have the money, a fully adjustable coilover suspension to address the Jazz's stiff ride. That's my dream mod because it's so damn expensive.

Choral singing. I learned a lot in how to be a better tenor this year. I can proudly say I've learned how to control my voice better from the "harmonized hollering" I used to do back then, because Ate Edith confirms it.

Badminton. Paolo C. and I won our first tournament ever, and we've started training to improve our footwork, shots and ball-handling.

Reconnecting. I found the company of my college friends again, especially my dearest friend Denise. Surprisingly, my ex Pam and I have started talking again after five years, and it's going better than I ever expected. I'm generally happy for her and the exciting life she's leading now.

2007 was a bad year for...

Shoes. I think I wasted money buying pairs of sneakers that were just fit too tightly for my feet...especially my half-size-larger left one. I might have to stop being so excited about Puma's sneakers...

Gunpla. Save for the excellent MG ver.2.0 Zaku II(-S), many of the Master Grade models this year were disappointments. The new Gundam 00 lineup looks very, very promising though.

Relationships. Regulars on this blog already know why. I promise I'll relish being single. Women have no idea who they're overlooking. Their loss, not mine.

Vices. I don't want to get into too much detail, but this year I lived pretty dangerously, thinking with bodily appendages that aren't anywhere near my brain. This has to stop.

Health. My resistance to sickness tanked after the toll of OMR17 in October and November. Chalk that up to insomnia and overfatigue.

Life, age and bittersweet chocolate

I thought about a few things and it seems the perfect analogy for 2007 and my life in general nowadays is dark chocolate.

I remember having Hershey's Assortment chocolates over the holiday when I was a kid, and I'd pick out my favorite Krackel rice-crisp-studded milk chocolate over anything else in the bag. The last I'd touch were the nuggets of Hershey's Special Dark---they tasted weird. Well technically, they were still preferable over anything with peanuts in it such as Mr. Goodbar.

Nowadays, though, I've acquired a taste for the dark stuff. In my teens I lost my desire for milk chocolate and didn't really miss it all that much. It was only in my last couple of years in college that I tasted dark chocolate again, and was smitten by the full, bittersweet flavor and the way it never let go of my tastebuds. It's a world away from the sweet, creamy milk chocolate I used to enjoy as a kid. Often I purposely look for dark chocolate when we get these boxes of assorted chocolates and chocolate-covered biscuits once in a while.

Imagine my surprise when that eternal favorite, Nestle Crunch, actually comes in a dark variety...and tastes pretty damn good! I'm still not the connoisseur type, though: I shirk from Meiji's 86% Cacao ultra-dark chocolate because it tastes very very bitter, with an earthy taste.

I've acquired a taste for dark chocolate, much the same way as I've become a little more serene and accepted the bitterness of living as a twentysomething. Perhaps my loss of appetite for all the sweet milk and extra-creamy chocolate I used to enjoy in my childhood was an indication of how well I had things going for me. My expectations kept getting fulfilled, I have to admit it spoiled me for a while. Enjoying the bittersweet things, I guess, points to making the best of what comes my way and trying to enjoy it as much as I can.

Perhaps I'm not quite there yet, but I can certainly say I'm along the way.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Kids say the darndest things

Alex Rebano, 8 years old:
"Claustrophobia is being afraid of Santa Claus."

That made me smile. Thanks to Ria for that one.

Momentum and my emotional wrecking ball

There are a million things I want to talk about my recent state of mind and emotions. Instead of talking in the second person like I am wont to do, I will let Vienna Teng do the talking for me...and I'll leave it up to you to figure me out. I've been an open book and giving away the answers for far too long.

Why am I walking barefoot
Upon this road with no one around
I close my eyes to this decision

The night's like coffee to my tongue
Like waking up without a sound
I map the words out, maybe you will say them

Would you help me rise up?
Touch my face and watch me try to breathe again
Would you let me do this?
Burn down the final wall

Overcome me, baby
Overcome me, baby
Overcome me, baby
Overcome me, yeah
All I'm asking is to be alive for once

Always I am mistaken
I look for love, I find a stone
Of all the seasons winter befriends me

I come to you in friendship
And hold my breath against the snow
What are you thinking as I gaze into you?

Forgive me the confusion
Forgive me as I realize my thoughts betrayed
You are the answer, cry and smile the same

Overcome me, baby
Overcome me, baby
Overcome me, baby
Overcome me, yeah
All I'm asking is to be
All I'm asking is to be alive...

- Vienna Teng, "Momentum"

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Two birds, one gadget

Some of you may know that since my collection of digital music ripped from my CD collection (and some loaned ones) kept growing and growing, I've had my eyes set on getting a digital audio player. (No iPod was ever in my wish list, though.)

Some of you may also know that I've never really liked my cellphone, my mom's hand-me-down Nokia 6600. It's got a lot of features compared to today's models, but I never took to its soap-bar form factor.

Regular readers will remember at this point last year I was looking to get a Nokia 5300 XpressMusic phone---arguably the first or second in that line. The best of both worlds, right?

No.

It was not without its drawbacks. Dismal battery life, a non-standard 2.5mm audio jack and a fragile screen were livable, but the deal-killer was its lack of support for WMA music files, which most of my music is encoded in. The newer 5700 came, went, and addressed the WMA playback, but it looked much less appealing than the 5300.

I spent 2007 loaning my Tita Vik's trusty CD Walkman and soldiering on with the 6600, while whetting my appetite on Attack of the Show's "Gadget Pr0n" and digital audio player reviews on CNET and Anythingbutipod.com.

While wandering in Power Plant, I saw something very promising and put it on my Christmas wish list...and I got it: the Nokia 5310 XpressMusic phone.


Next to the chunky 5300, 5700 and my 6600, this thing is so slim it's anorexic. The 5300's side-mounted music buttons remain, now wider and made of textured plastic over aluminum. A standard 3.5mm stereo mini jack takes pride of place on the top, next to the proprietary mini-USB jack. I glossed over the equally new but more expensive 5610 XpressMusic because of that audio jack, and I've developed doubts on the reliability of slider mechanisms after seeing the abused demo units in several Nokia stores. The 5310's even light enough to hang on the neckband of my Creative EP-635 earphones. On these earphones the 5310 has a lot of oomph---listening at the lowest volume is plenty loud enough for my ears, and the music quality's very good.

The phone still isn't perfect, though. On prolonged music-playing periods, battery life won't last you two days, and the loudspeaker is on the weak side. In a perfect example of megapixel count not being everything in digital cameras, the 5310's 2-megapixel unit is slow and isn't very good compared to the old 6600's VGA camera. Finally, when playing music, there are infrequent random times when it stops and reupdates its music library. All are livable quirks, and frankly, you really don't buy a 5310 for its camera---you get it because you love music on the go.
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Thanks, Mom. I didn't think you'd take me seriously when I told you I wanted the 5310 as a Christmas present---I'd really rather prefer to buy my stuff by myself. That's why I appreciate it all the more.

So it's Christmas. What's next?

When the song of angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins

To find the lost, to heal the broken
To feed the hungry, feed the prisoners
To rebuild nations, bring peace among brothers
To make music in the heart...

When the song of angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins.

- Bukas Palad, "The Work of Christmas"

Monday, December 24, 2007

My long-overdue PETA and thesis photos

After two years, I finally have the photos from my thesis and PETA OJT days out of my old Nokia 6600 cellphone.

These photos are pretty much my pride and joy from my college days, so I'm posting them here.

I won't be around later on as we'll likely be somewhere else tonight, so I want to take the chance to greet everyone a merry, merry Christmas. I'll post again real soon.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

I am envious!

This year's Accenture Christmas Party was held over at the new SMX Convention Center at the SM Mall of Asia. I didn't really enjoy myself though. Chalk up another social gathering served with subpar food.

No matter. I really had no intention of staying there for long. My raison d'etre there was to watch how my friends at the Accenture Chorale made use of their painstaking rehearsals for a performance two months in the making. I wanted to witness what I missed due to work.

I was definitely not disappointed. They sang a stellar ensemble, from Bukas Palad's "Gumising" to "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" to the unmistakable "Carol of the Bells," their voices joined in a harmonious blend as they finished with "Joy to the World" and the Filipino classic "Kumukuti-kutitap." Boy, was I jealous.

Even with our dear trainer Budz Castillo's gracious departure (you are much missed, sir!), the Chorale proved its mettle and dedication in the most spectacular way.

I vow to join the next performance. Lito tells me the Chorale has an eventful year ahead.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Night of the bloggers

The meet-up with Joy went ahead tonight at Brooklyn Pizza in Alabang Town Center, along with her husband Tom, her friend Chingkai and her other WordPress-blogging friends Mervin, Laverne, Agnes and Malen.

Not even the decidedly subpar food and the insufficiency of the air-conditioning dampened the generally bubbly atmosphere of the meet. It was great making new acquaintances and friends. Tom and Laverne in particular were quite helpful with advice about the basics of professional blogging. Chingkai shared her colorful stories of being a writer in a country that doesn't appreciate them one bit. Mervin lamented the pitfalls of Smart broadband, while Agnes and Malen missed the Alabang exit on their way to the meet. As for Joy, she had a lot of fascinating stories to tell also.

I gave Joy my old "blue pill" USB flash drive, loaded with song rips of Sugar Free's first and third albums. She was looking for Filipino songs and those are pretty hard to find in Norwich.

I had fun, guys. Thanks.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Blowing my bonus

My left headlight bulb gave out on Tuesday night. The only way I could have both headlights functioning was by driving the whole time on high beam...which would have made me a lot of enemies. I considered it one more "configurable item" on my Jazz...which this weekend was dedicated to.

First thing in the morning, I drove to Autoline Makati and got myself a black-and-gray Momo Fighter steering wheel. This was to replace my stock one with the sticking horn pad. Originally I wanted an all-black Tuner model as it was much cheaper, but proprietor Alex Ong told me he had the Fighter on his Jazz before and it matched the dashboard plastics better. He did have a point; when it comes to cars I'm not into loud and gaudy things. It cost a pretty penny at PhP8,500 including the requisite steering wheel adapter, but I'm satisfied. The slightly increased steering effort and smaller diameter take getting used to, though.

Next came my search for headlight bulbs. Originally I had the much-vaunted OSRAM Silver Stars in sight, but due to the difficulty of finding them, I settled for OSRAM Bilux All-Weather bulbs which are just as highly praised. Plugged in, the OSRAM All-Weather bulbs give off a yellow light with a faint but distinct violet tint---cool. I can't wait to try it out tomorrow night.

Compared to other cars, changing headlights on a Jazz is not child's play. Due to the tight engine bay, the right method is to pop open the front fender liners and pick the deep-seated assembly apart by feel. There's no escaping the dust and dirt buildup ending up on your fingers and arms, and you're bound to get snags working your way through to the socket. On my first attempt it took me almost an hour, most of it spent trying to figure out how to pop open the hold-down wire. Once I got the process down pat, though, I could replace bulbs in five minutes.

Finally, I went to our local Goodyear Servitek to have my punctured tire vulcanized, get a wheel-alignment check and a wheel balancing job. Short of a full oil change, my silver Jazz has been really pampered today.

The Internet Channels Christmas party 2007



My team at work had its Christmas party-cum-dinner last night at Little Asia in Greenhills. Check out all the pictures here.

I'm not sure what led me to be recognized as the "Motolite Man" though. I don't quite see the connection between the wet-cell battery brand and "intense focus." Hmmmm.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Now yer honking with power!

I sent the Jazz into the Honda Makati service bay to have the steering wheel and busted horn checked. When I got it back, they said they found nothing wrong with the steering wheel's horn pad, and that the horn was the culprit.

Sick of the funny-sounding stock Jazz horn, and the lack of attention it gets from naughty PUV drivers and pedestrians, I decided to get an aftermarket one. So off I drove to Autoline in Chino Roces Ave. once again. I got my Pioneer DEH-P7950UB head unit from them earlier this year and I was pleased with the job. I opted for the Stebel Magnum twin-tone electromagnetic horn: not scandalously loud that it attracts the cops' attention, but powerful enough to make for a good early warning device. At PhP900, it's money well spent.

This afternoon, I felt the steering wheel's horn pad sticking up again. Apparently it's heavily dependent on where you strike the pad, as well as how hard you do so. That is strange---I had no such problems blasting the horn on my old City.

I don't want to risk blowing up more fuses and my new horns with a sticking horn button. Since I don't have the CVT's shift buttons and an airbag system, I don't really need the stock steering wheel. Perhaps it's time I plumped for an aftermarket steering wheel---and Autoline has a lineup of pretty good Momo yokes that aren't ridiculously overpriced.

Yep, the tuning bug has slowly but surely bitten me.

Friday, December 07, 2007

2007: Maybe it hasn't been so bad...

Trying to tread the thin line between being appreciative and thinking about this thing too much isn't always easy, but I'm surprised how well I've been doing.

I guess I've gained some serenity over a 2007 filled with moments of disappointment, heartbreak, stupidity and living life dangerously. I've managed to stare my vices and evils in the face, indulge in them to see how far I can go, and come to some semblance of sanity and temperance.

Next year, perhaps, should be my full return to innocence. As much as I still seek the state of being "stupidly happy," I've come to the age where living stupidly with any other emotions attached cannot be tolerated.

I do not need to please everyone; I please enough of the people that matter. I do not need companionship as much as I thought; I have learned and have yet to learn to enjoy being lonely, being by myself.

This year has practically been put to bed, its heartbeat ebbing away in its death throes. From its dregs comes a new year, a chance to bet my life again.

"Grant me the courage to change the things I can, serenity to accept the things I cannot, and wisdom to know the difference."

Amen.

Dear Jona

When you sent me that email the other night, it was a mild surprise. I will not deny that I felt good after reading it.

Yet I still stand with my reply. I have long since accepted that you and I just do not click. Our personalities are too different, our interests too divergent, that I doubt we will ever meet halfway. Having said that, I am still open to us being friends. Like I said, we've wasted too much time acting awkwardly toward each other when we could have done much more productive things in ten months.

Yes, you already know everything I just wrote because it was in my reply. However, I would like to issue a challenge to you.

Simply saying that you would still like us to be friends, by itself, is an empty promise. It will remain empty until you do what I did and what you thanked me for. It will remain empty until you make the decision to come out of your comfortable shell---keeping your distance from me, acting all cool and civil---and take the initiative to get to know me better. Friendship is a two-way thing; it's time for some reciprocation don't you think?

Do not let our differences discourage you. What matters is you tried. I don't think you have anything to lose.

I hope that in the coming year you will take up this challenge; not just with me, but with other people you may have distanced yourself from.

Merry Christmas to you.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Toot the horn, blow one fuse

While Paolo C. and I were at Yonex Sunrise Badminton Club for the 4th Accenture Badminton Club Cup, a paged message bearing the plate number of my car called my attention. Apparently someone spotted my car blowing its horn by itself in the parking lot.

When I walked to my Jazz, it had already gone silent, so I took a look at the fusebox. Sure enough, it had blown a fuse due to the prolonged horn blast. My steering wheel's horn pad had developed the habit of getting stuck. Strangely, it had to happen when I wasn't even in the car!

The blown 15A fuse protected two circuits: the horn and brake lights. With new fuses at hand, I tried the horn again. A faint but ominous click was audible, but the horn kept silent. Driving around with no brake lights is pretty dangerous, so I put in a new fuse and resolved not to use the horn for the remainder of the week.

The long and short of this incident is, my quest to customize my Jazz might have taken another unexpected step. The short-circuited stock horn wasn't much good at making my presence known, anyway. This might be a good chance to get a set of more powerful air horns.

If only those new horns don't short from the horn pad getting stuck again...

Stuck in Christmas gridlock

When your usual 45-minute drive home extends to nigh-on 3 hours, you know it's definitely Christmas season.

The long train of cars had its tail end at the C5 off-ramp and never let up until I was past SM Bicutan. Bicutan Interchange was actually the meat and potatoes of the whole queue. Last night it served as a textbook example of traffic mismanagement. Everyone tied up the overloaded intersection trying to cross all at the same time. It was bonkers, and it ate a lot of my fuel.

For the rest of the month, I am taking the Skyway going home to skip all this gridlocked insanity.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Mechanical temptation beckons...

According to HCP acquaintance and SpeedLab shop owner Ferman Lao, the GD-series Honda Jazz is currently one of the hottest cars for tuning and modification enthusiasts. Since one of these "hamsters" now serves as my daily runabout, it's become pretty hard to ignore the lure of all the performance parts on sale.

From full coilover suspension kits and upsized brake rotors to turbo installations and custom exhaust headers, the list of possibilities is endless. I've said before that my Jazz's stock L13A3 twin-spark engine is short of about 30 BHP to be truly fun; SpeedLab's turbo kit promises a mouth-watering gain of 40-60 BHP. The price is equally tear-inducing though: installing the kit costs PhP135,000 all in, labor and tuning included.

The increased pace is tempting, but I'm inclined to take the minor engine-breathing upgrades instead and take a long hard look at the suspension and brake options. TEIN's Super Street Damper set starts at PhP57,500, while their more unique Basic Compact/Wagon coilover set is PhP60,000. Gulp. An aftermarket suspension has more value than a turbo, however, as TEIN's units are much more robustly constructed. The stock springs and dampers in comparison have generated a few complaints from other Jazz owners after a few years of local road use.

After avoiding car clubs like the plague for a couple of years, I think I've rediscovered how to make myself bankrupt. Now that I'm earning money, I'm taking a long hard look at keeping the Jazz for a long time and letting the tuning bug finally bite me.

When will sleep come?

Funny enough, hours after writing my previous blog post about recovering from the flu and praising the value of sleep, I was tossing and turning in bed trying desperately to get my daily requirement of it. No matter how dark my room was or how long I closed my eyes, my mind simply remained too wound-up and active hours after I took to bed.

The next day I woke up feeling dull and insipid. Driving to the office proved tiring again, and once there I could barely stay productive.

Insomnia, delayed sleep phase disorder or whatever you might call it, I've definitely got it. It's a transient case, but it's gotten more frequent these days and it stinks.

I'm considering buying some sleeping pills to help my poor sleep habits.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Much to look forward to...after rest

Overtime, lousy sleep and my colleagues' illnesses have finally done me in. Last Wednesday, while getting ready to take the morning shower, I felt horrible and feverish. I had a bad cough, a massive headache and none of my energy.

That set off a whole week off work. Most of the flu symptoms were gone by Friday, but my heavy, dizzy head absolutely refused to cooperate. A thirty-minute spell in front of the computer to check my email left me drained and dizzy.

Consequently, in those five days of sick leave I rediscovered the value of sleep. Oh, how I neglected that most despised of my physical needs. I slept abnormally frequently, especially in the afternoons. This is payback for the long nights and incessant hotel insomnia of my last project, I reckon. I don't enjoy sleep, but I had a lot of it and it did me a world of good. I gained weight, swilled my pills, lay in bed watching new cable channels and slept like a bum.

When I mustered the will to report back to work this morning, I was still quite weak. My eyes spun in their sockets after the morning drive to Mandaluyong and my forehead glistened with the sick pall of cold sweat. As the day went by, I gradually gained back my strength. While waiting my turn at the toll booth intersection tonight, close to home, I felt grateful to feel...normal.
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I recovered just in time. This was almost a repeat of last year, when I got sick on the day of the Accenture Badminton Club (ABC) Cup tournament. I'm grateful I recovered with three days to go before this year's tourney.
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My plane tickets to Leyte have just been booked. This takes the honor of my first-ever credit card transaction, and I did the booking and purchase online too. To my chagrin, the ticket price has gone up from last month, but I don't mind.

I'll be greeting my "best fwend" a happy happy birthday in person, after four years. I'm certainly looking forward to it, Cher.
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Joy's also made our coffee date when she visits from the UK. The 16th of December it is.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Tired...

On a whim I left Pam a message on Friendster. Then I visited her blog. She hasn't updated it in a while due to the whims of Multiply, but what I see is enough to tell me she's got a whole lot going on in her life---most of which is stuff she enjoys.

And I'm glad for her.

It is a balmy Saturday afternoon. I just got my 13th-month pay. Technically speaking, I'm more loaded than ever before.

So why am I wasting the day cooped up at home in front of my computer and writing on my blog?

I'm tired of battling the traffic and the weekend drivers and the indecisive morons that populate Manila's streets. I'm tired of spending my hard-earned money on the silliest, most frivolous, even downright hazardous things and experiences. I'm tired of the temptation to think with body organs other than my head.

I am bored, I want to get out and enjoy, I want to finish my almost-done Christmas shopping, I want to drive to the ends of the earth, but I am tired.

Maybe next week...

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Casualties of the battle of the sexes

For every woman who is tired of acting weak when she knows she is strong, there is a man who is tired of appearing strong when he feels vulnerable.

For every woman who is tired of acting dumb, there is a man who is burdened with the constant expectation of “knowing everything.”

For every woman who is tired of being called “an emotional female,” there is a man who is denied the right to weep and to be gentle.

For every woman who is called unfeminine when she competes, there is a man for whom competition is the only way to prove his masculinity.

For every woman who is tired of being a sex object, there is a man who must worry about his potency.

For every woman who feels “tied down” by her children, there is a man who is denied the full pleasures of shared parenthood.

For every woman who is denied meaningful employment or equal pay, there is a man who must bear full financial responsibility for another human being.

For every woman who was not taught the intricacies of an automobile, there is a man who was not taught the satisfactions of cooking.

For every woman who takes a step toward her own liberation, there is a man who finds the way to freedom has been made a little easier.

- Nancy R. Smith, "For Every Woman"
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I got the poem above from Dr. Joy Barredo, an acquaintance I met by her stumbling across my blog a few months ago. We've been exchanging emails since then, and had things turned out a little differently I might have met her as one of my literature professors in DLSU.

If all goes well, I'll be sipping coffee with her in Alabang by December. We'll see.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Rakenrol muna...

Duda ang aking kasama
At sabay kami sa aming pag-iisa
Meron akong matagal nang hinahanap
At ang takot ko'y di na siya mahagilap

Dumaan na ba siya? Di ko lang napuna?
Ilang gabi pang laman ng isip
Ilang araw pang magtatanong
Kung sino, nasaan, kailan ka ba
Darating at ako ay sagipin
Sa mundong malupit at naiinip?
Sino, nasaan, kailan ka ba?

Walang silbi sa akin ang gabi
At di makatulog sa kahihintay sa iyo
Kung ika'y dumating, kailangang tanggapin
Na baka di ka naman maging akin

Dumaan na ba siya? Di ko lang napuna?
Ilang gabi pang laman ng isip
Ilang araw pang magtatanong
Kung sino, nasaan, kailan ka ba
Darating at ako ay sagipin
Sa mundong malupit at naiinip?
Sino, nasaan, kailan ka ba?

Sino ka man, dumating ka na please
Sino ka man, dumating ka na please
Sino, nasaan, kailan...

Sino, nasaan, kailan ka ba
Darating at ako ay sagipin
Sa mundong malupit at naiinip?
Sino, nasaan, kailan ka ba?

- Sugar Free, "Kailan Ka Ba?"

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Gaining back my faith

I am lonely again. I stood on the precipice of a great chance of finally finding love, after a long time. In the end, I had to throw it all away for doing what I thought was the best thing.

If it was so wise to let go then why does it hurt?

Yet life goes on. I refuse to get more exhausted than I already am. I cannot and will not be mired in this for longer than I have to be. I've learned fairly quickly; I can do it again.

I have to, for my own sake.
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The past six months have been dangerous times, in hindsight. I've been playing with toys I shouldn't even be touching.

When she found out, Denise was genuinely concerned about me and my well-being. She was scared for me. She disapproved of my habit without being patronizing. Had it come from anyone else I would have brushed it clean off.

Now I owe it up to her to keep from committing "bad faith." It has to end, and I need to be seen to. I guess you knew I deserve much better than what I've been giving myself, and for some reason I just forgot my self-worth.

If I see you often enough, perhaps you can keep me from bad faith. I can laugh heartily at you and me and forget about looking for love so doggedly, so vainly. I missed you a lot and I realize just how valuable our friendship is and how naturally it comes between us. It's worth making a habit out of.

Thanks so much, Den. I'll see you again soon.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Ten guidelines from God

I got this email from my choir buddy Matthew. I thought I should share it with you guys because it's something I also need to look at from time to time.
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Effective Immediately, please be aware that there are changes YOU need to make in YOUR life. These changes need to be completed in order that I may fulfill My promises to you to grant you peace, joy and happiness in this life. I apologize for any inconvenience, but after all that I am doing, this seems very little to ask of you. Please, follow these 10 guidelines.

1. QUIT WORRYING:
Life has dealt you a blow and all you do is sit and worry. Have you forgotten that I am here to take all your burdens and carry them for you? Or do you just enjoy fretting over every little thing that comes your way?

2. PUT IT ON THE LIST:
Something needs done or taken care of. Put it on the list. No, not YOUR list. Put it on MY to-do-list. Let ME be the one to take care of the problem. I can't help you until you turn it over to Me. And although My to-do-list is long, I am after all... God. I can take care of anything you put into My hands. In fact, if the truth were ever really known, I take care of a lot of things for you that you never even realize.

3. TRUST ME:
Once you've given your burdens to Me, quit trying to take them back. Trust in Me. Have the faith that I will take care of all your needs, your problems and your trials. Problems with the kids? Put them on My list. Problem with finances? Put it on My list. Problems with your emotional roller coaster? For My sake, put it on My list. I want to help you. All you have to do is ask.

4. LEAVE IT ALONE:
Don't wake up one morning and say, "Well, I'm feeling much stronger now, I think I can handle it from here." Why do you think you are feeling stronger now? It's simple. You gave Me your burdens and I'm taking care of them. I also renew your strength and cover you in my peace. Don't you know that if I give you these problems back, you will be right back where you started? Leave them with Me and forget about them. Just let Me do my job.

5. TALK TO ME:
I want you to forget a lot of things. Forget what was making you crazy. Forget the worry and the fretting because you know I'm in control. But there's one thing I pray you never forget... Please, don't forget to talk to Me - OFTEN! I love YOU! I want to hear your voice. I want you to include Me in on the things going on in your life. I want to hear you talk about your friends and family. Prayer is simply you having a conversation with Me. I want to be your dearest friend.

6. HAVE FAITH:
I see a lot of things from up here that you can't see from where you are. Have faith in Me that I know what I'm doing. Trust Me; you wouldn't want the view from My eyes. I will continue to care for you, watch over you, and meet your needs. You only have to trust Me. Although I have a much bigger task than you, it seems as if you have so much trouble just doing your simple part. How hard can trust be?

7. SHARE:
You were taught to share when you were only two years old. When did you forget? That rule still applies. Share with those who are less fortunate than you. Share your joy with those who need encouragement. Share your laughter with those who haven't heard any in such a long time. Share your tears with those who have forgotten how to cry. Share your faith with those who have none.

8. BE PATIENT:
I managed to fix it so in just one lifetime you could have so many diverse experiences. You grow from a child to an adult, have children, change jobs many times, learn many trades, travel to so many places, meet thousands of people, and experience so much. How can you be so impatient then when it takes Me a little longer than you expect to handle something on My to-do-list? Trust in My timing, for My timing is perfect. Just because I created the entire universe in only six days, everyone thinks I should always rush, rush, rush.

9. BE KIND:
Be kind to others, for I love them just as much as I love you. They may not dress like you, or talk like you, or live the same way you do, but I still love you all. Please try to get along, for My sake. I created each of you different in some way. It would be too boring if you were all identical. Please, know I love each of your differences.

10. LOVE YOURSELF:
As much as I love you, how can you not love yourself? You were created by me for one reason only -- to be loved, and to love in return. I am a God of Love. Love Me. Love your neighbors. But also love yourself. It makes My heart ache when I see you so angry with yourself when things go wrong. You are very precious to me. Don't ever forget...

Note: I received this from a friend and I have no idea who wrote it, but I was so touched by it, that I had to share it with you. I hope that you will be blessed by it and will share it with others.

Touch someone with your love. Rather than focus upon the thorns of life, smell the roses and count your blessings!

"I never said it would be easy. I said it would be worth it."

Of hotels, comfort and grace

I've been on overtime for the past month, and out of that, I've spent three weeks at a hotel close to work. This week was the worst yet. I'm dead tired and unable to sleep very well. There was even one day where I was up the whole night, searching in vain for sleep to come.

I'm really burnt out, and I don't think the hotel stay helped this time. I guess I miss my bed too damn much.
===

There's this new colleague at work I'm not very comfortable with. Okay, perhaps I'm being a little unfair and I should give her the benefit of the doubt. But I really don't like the way she looks at me and approaches me. Once she literally rubbed me the wrong way---on the shoulder---to borrow my cell phone charger. I could feel my blood run cold. Who exactly is this girl to me and why is she being too friendly? My friend Chielou assumes she has a crush on me---well this is exactly how NOT to make a favorable impression.

Being over-friendly also applies to this other stranger who keeps sending me messages in the hope of making me a so-called textmate. I have no idea of who this party is, other than "it" having introduced "itself" to me as "Trouble." To date I haven't replied to any of "its" messages, but that doesn't seem to have stopped "it" from trying.

Besides, if you were named Trouble, how good do you imagine my odds are of wanting to meet you?
===

Regardless of how massively tired I've been this week though, I'm glad I had my friend Grace. We've become much closer over the past few days, and my day hasn't been complete without calling her up or sending her a few messages over SMS. In the insomnia-laced craziness of work, she's kept me on an even keel.

I only hope I've done the same for her.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Mushy rush

I just finished watching the anime "REC."

It's the story of Aka, a struggling red-haired seiyuu (voice actress) who aspires to emulate Audrey Hepburn, and Matsumaru, an equally struggling advertising man in a snack food company. Both awkward and shy, their lives intersect when Aka's apartment goes up in flames after their initial date over beer and chicken. Matsumaru offers to take her in...and thus starts the chain of events that becomes their adventure.

It's been a long, long while since an anime made me feel this nice; I haven't felt this mushy rush since "Chobits." In a culture and place like Japan, where work takes precedence over almost everything else, "REC" features just how hard it is to start a successful relationship, let alone maintain one.

The theme is nothing new, as is the story, so what "REC" has going for it is its charm. Aka changes her voice whenever she quotes Audrey Hepburn's movie lines, and Matsumaru's introverted nature gets him in all sorts of trouble. The two characters just work, and "REC's" short run (an episode has two 15-minute chapters) keeps it peppy and fresh, just the right amount of mushy. Despite the brevity, the series covers all the bases.

This was really fun. I'd like to see more of these.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

So this is what it feels like.

(one.)
The feeling of independence, of not having parents or anyone else to help. The experience of boarding with colleagues---not on some summer outing, but because we're all teammates doomed to committing overtime hours for an extended period. The shock of missing objects or things instead of family members. The quirks of having to iron your clothes without an iron. The irritation of being awake at 4 a.m. while everyone else is snoring away. The power of a caffeine overdose---and its crippling, mind-burning consequences.

For these I have to thank Joel, Candice and Sara. We still have a long road ahead and it is fraught with disappointment, frustration and bewilderment. I am glad I had to share it with you three.

(two.)
The feeling of helplessness and being lied to. The disappointment of seeing you being hailed as our representative for our concerns, when you've done nothing to stand up for all our sacrifices and grievances. The abandonment from other teams that are supposed to be doing their jobs; instead, all the blame, pressure and effort is piled on our shoulders yet again. The weariness from being asked to play superhero all the time when we so obviously are not, nor did we deserve to be treated as such. The empty promise heaped on us for our effort and sacrifice when it is obviously not enough compensation. The growing urge to give up and refuse flat-out.

How long will this go on? When will it all end? I refuse to believe you any longer. Your words are as empty as your ass-kissing soul. Let's see how good a leader you are when not one among your subordinates believes you.

(three.)
The feeling of having a confidant friend in the craziness of the Internet. The reassurance that there is someone willing to listen to whatever screwed-up idea pops up in my head. The appreciation one can only get from having an audience---one very willing at that.

Thank you, Grace. I have much to learn from you and I will keep on asking you questions. And yes, I really do want to sing for you one of these days.

(four.)
The will to make something else out of my time, but not the resources nor the freedom to do so. The vanishing of whatever little social life I used to have. The desire to be somewhere else.

Is this what being burnt out feels like?

(five.)
The unpleasant feeling that rears its green head when you see the women you used to cherish being happy with men who aren't you. The lingering question that stabs you in the head and heart with a glass dagger: "Why not me?" The onset of doubt: "Am I destined to be alone forever? Have I met my quota of learning experiences of what true love is like?" The self-loathing. The broken self-esteem.

So this is what it feels like.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Dear Ira

You probably don't know me as anything other than the relatively new tenor at the choir. You don't even know my name. Conversely, I don't know you very well either as anything other than the niece of my choirmaster.

That said, I have a few words you might want to listen to. I bet you won't fully understand what I'm saying until at least five years from now, but I'll say it anyway.

If you knew anything at all about me, I generally dislike kids. I especially dislike your brothers and cousins because they're so boisterous and unruly, and I'm the strict disciplinarian type who won't shirk from whupping some butt in the name of setting kids straight.

I admire you because you're very well-adjusted, given your tender age of nine. You act like the stereotypical big sister: stern, responsible, well-meaning and perfectionist, if a little bitchy and catty for it. That's generally a good thing, a virtue. The way you volunteered to sing in place of our absentee members yesterday is very, very admirable.

But let me tell you this: you're too young for that.

You're way too young to become bitchy and catty. (Er, "bitch" is a bad word. I don't mean it in a bad way, but don't imitate me saying it...not just yet. ) You're still too young to be fretting over stuff, especially stuff that grown-ups like us should be concerned with. You're too young to cover for the idiotic foolishness of your brothers the way you do.

Most of all, you're too young to be wearing a razor-sharp frown the way I see you do.

You're a nine-year-old kid, a girl at that. Honestly, I think you should be enjoying it. Enjoy your ballet lessons, enjoy your classmates, enjoy the company of your friends and don't worry unnecessarily. Kids have the license to get away with stupid things the way most grown-ups just wish they could. Don't be in a hurry to grow up---I'm speaking from experience and it's not good.

Don't act like me because you'll end up like me. I don't want that kind of life for you. I want you to be happy in these halcyon days because they will pass by much, much faster than you think, and when they do, you can never have them back no matter how much you want them to. Enjoy what you can, while you can. Your mom and dad may put limits and dampers to your fun, but I know them and they mean you well.

I don't know how much more often I will be able to see you. I don't even know if we'll ever be properly introduced. Those are questions for the future, and you don't see me worrying about them, so you shouldn't too. All I want is to see you smiling more often, regardless of whether you know me or not.

Pardon me for being so long-winded...I know kids have short attention spans nowadays so I'll leave you to your business. Just stay happy.

Cheers,
JM

Wanted: enthusiasm from fellow choir members

Lately it's become rather disheartening and disappointing to stay on as a member of our church choir. The level of commitment and enthusiasm is a far cry from what I see in the Accenture Chorale...heck, even from just the Cybergate Choir. I daresay we don't even sound as good as we should be. To top it all off, we just essentially celebrated the departure of yet another member.

It's rare that I wax religious in my posts, or even my thoughts, but I will keep on singing as much as I can. It's a good way of serving the Lord. I'm afraid to say how long I will keep singing in my own church is still up in the air, however. Without opportunities to learn something new, or encouragement from other members, it has become truly tempting to ply my trade somewhere else.

Chalk up one more recent disappointment in a year that's been full of them, I reckon.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Sage advice for the lonely souls

We spend much of our lives alone. Some cope with it better than others. The ones who don’t are primed and ready for victimhood. You have to learn to be with yourself, because if you don’t, there’s a whole world of drugs, booze and rotten people who will be your friend until you’ve been sucked dry. Beware of what loneliness makes you do...

This quote is brought to you by the LA Weekly...and one of the creepier stories I've read.

*

Early morning overtime's a bitch

The past week I've been going to the office at 7am more frequently than usual---four days out of five a week, to be exact, instead of the usual one. This was a bid to put in overtime hours for my current project at work.

However I'm finding the schedule increasingly tough on my body. This is the first week that I've been at it (I reserve Fridays as no-overtime days). Already I feel lousier and lousier with every exit from the glass doors at work, and it shows up on my face. Factor in the intense pressure on our team and the disappointing behavior of our onshore counterparts, and it feels like another one of those projects where you're being asked to move heaven and earth.

Still, as I was waiting for breakfast today at a fastfood restaurant, I was reminded of how much better I have it at work compared to other people. I can't imagine myself in a fastfood restaurant; imagine the pressure to serve and take orders as efficiently and as quickly as possible on a daily basis. Then again each job has its own demands and idiosyncrasies.

I'm not sure how much longer I can hold out like this, so I've decided to take up the offer of free lodging at a nearby hotel while we're on overtime. I wonder if it'll make any difference.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

The hunger remains

Perhaps I'm not as evil or as undesirable as I thought. According to others, I'm actually better adjusted than I give myself credit for.

So why am I still the lone wolf?

It is supposedly because the little things matter so much to me. They do, because it's through the little things that I show my humanity.

Yet again I am a slave to the tightening garrote of expectations...I expect something in return for what I do, and I am disappointed when I don't get it. How expensive is it, in the grand scheme of things, to be recognized and appreciated?

Unfortunately it doesn't work that way.

I am told that just doing the right thing should be the reward in itself.

Homogeneity is not the answer I was looking for. Homogeneity is not what belonging should be all about. I am not evil or twisted or sociopathic; I am just different; I am myself. I do not need to be invited by people and colleagues to parties and gimmicks just to validate that we're friends. All I have to do is be myself, as helpful as I've ever been.

Thanks, PJ.

Maybe that time will come. Maybe that person will come. Until then, all I can do is work behind the scenes like I've always done.

...I am still eternally hungry for appreciation.

Sigh.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Look what I got in the mail today

Apparently Gracey left me an unexpected parting gift: a signed, hardbound copy of "The Little Prince" and a signed copy of a small paperback called "Work Therapy." That was totally unexpected. I'll find the time to read them.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Friday, October 05, 2007

No time like the present

I haven't had much to write about lately. A lot of things have happened, but I don't feel the urge to write about them.

The past couple of weeks have seen a few dear people leave my life. They've also seen a few not-so-dear people leave me for no intelligible reason other than their thinking they know me well.

I'm also learning that perhaps the heartbreak bitterness isn't gone yet, but I have to live through this because there's nothing else I can do.

Replacing some of those dear friends is a new "big sister" of sorts who's been patient with listening to me and my insecurities. Thanks. You know who you are.

The virtue that tickles my psyche the most nowadays is "serenity." According to a prayer on one of my mother's kitchen decorations, it's the acceptance of things I can't do anything about. Lavishing emotion and anger on stuff that's already happened is a tremendous waste of time. It's just a matter of ingraining this lesson into my stubborn mental fiber.

I am slowly realizing that there's no time like the present. For far too long, the fear of making mistakes and my insecurities have gotten in the way of what I wanted to do. It shouldn't matter if I want to ask someone out on a date or book a two-way flight to the province. If I can do it, I should chase my happiness. What else will stop me? What else should stop me?

I should keep trying now. I'm not getting any younger.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

I'm about to lose my anchor

My colleague and friend Grace is leaving us for greener pastures...much to the shock and bewilderment of many on our team. Tomorrow is the start of her final week.

While I can't deny I got saddened and a little infuriated because I didn't know about this sooner, I can't really help things by stewing. Instead I decided to give her birthday gift three weeks early. Good for me I already bought it in advance.

Ever since she got that Olympus Mju 770SW camera of hers, she's been taking snapshot upon snapshot with it on her many travels. Knowing how quirky her taste is and how frequently she shoots, I got her a Joby Gorillapod Classic as an investment for her photographic hobby. Wow, did she rave like a little kid when she opened it. Apparently she'd been wishing for one for a while after seeing one of her mountain-climbing friends bring one, and I just so happened to be the fairy godmoth...uh, godfather. Moments after opening the Gorillapod, she affectionately called it "Gorio."

We've had our share of problems but she's still my anchor to my other colleagues. Even though I was gradually weaning myself from her, nothing could have prepared me for her total departure. She was a bright bit of sunshine the whole time I knew her. All I can do is leave her with a few good memories while she's here and hope for the best for her in Switzerland.

Thank you, Gracey. Barclays definitely won't be the same without you.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The consequences of "first-child syndrome" fuelled by rage

I'm stuck in the notion that I can actually change things by sheer force of will and a lot of vitriol.

Even though I know I can't, I still engage in this idiotic, idiosyncratic folly.

Go with the flow, people say.

I can't.

I'm the proverbial salmon, fighting the tide and going upstream with no rational explanation, except for thinking things should go exactly the way I envision them to be. I want people to follow the rules. I want people to be conscious of the rules even if they aren't being enforced properly.

I want them to think, dammit! I want them to reciprocate! I want them to feel guilty before they commit to something stupid!

Sigh.

What an enormous waste of energy and willpower attributable to what our priest calls "first-child syndrome."

GAH! I feel nauseous. I am a failed Dr. Gregory House clone. At least his browbeating and overbearing behavior actually gets results. In contrast people just look at me and silently scream "What the fuck's this guy's problem?"



I have to let go at some point. I hope I don't get to the point where all the coiled-up tension and animosity just snaps my springs.

Socializing 101

When someone greets you hello after a long time, the proper thing to do is to greet them back.

What you don't do is give some cryptically sarcastic, uncalled-for reply that makes the other party actually feel bad that he/she greeted you in the first place.

Is that not correct? Of course it is.

Then why are you doing precisely the wrong thing?

Ah well, whatever. That's not for me to lose sleep and grow wrinkles and eyebags over.

Contradictory wisdom, part 1

Not everything can be explained by statistics. Intangibles are what will give you the edge over others.

So says my "big brother" at work, PJ. I suppose that's true.

Unfortunately not enough people pick up on those intangibles...which is why sometimes it really, really makes sense to follow Ayrton Senna's advice:

Nice guys don't win.

Gift-giving has its rewards...I guess

Giving presents should be a straightforward process, right?

Apparently, it isn't always that way. You see, it feels like a waste of effort and money when I hear the present isn't being enjoyed the way it's supposed to be.

I've prepared a number of gifts for my friends at work. The problem is they seldom have the time to fully enjoy what I give them...and so far my contributions have ranged from books to CDs to a free trip to the spa as a "job well done" treat.

I know it's the thought that counts, but knowing that they actually enjoyed my gift counts just that little bit more.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Rest in peace, Colin McRae.

An acquaintance of mine from an old forum I used to frequent sent me news that Colin McRae just died in a helicopter crash.

McRae's wins in the World Rally Championship while driving the Subaru Legacy WRC were my formal introduction to the world of rallying. The man loved racing in any and almost all forms: he also participated in the Paris-Dakar Rally and I know he tested Bentley's Speed Six Le Mans racer for Autocar a few times. Not many people liked him for being a colorful character, but you can't deny he had buckets of talent.

Next to the also-recently-deceased Richard Burns, I consider McRae the consummate rally driver. He will be missed.

The illusion of forgiveness

We're taught to think that sins can be forgiven, bad habits can be abolished and a return to innocence is possible.

Is that really the case?

From personal experience I know my doubts aren't simply unfounded. Old habits are hard to get rid of, if at all possible. Sins can be forgiven perhaps, but it's impractical to totally forget what people have done to us due to their character flaws---and vice versa. It's just the natural thing to do to cover our asses.

A return to innocence? Let's just say we're all dirty washcloths. The water used to supposedly launder us of our adulterations unfortunately can't be drained and changed.

Battle Gear 4 for me, thanks

I tried Initial D 4 again. Sure enough, my suspicions of "invisible walls" are confirmed, at least on Akagi and Shin-Myogi. Colliding against these things slows me down to an inexplicably sluggish pace that I have so much trouble recovering from.

This isn't stopping the game from gaining relative popularity though. Well, the players can have it. At this point I can say I'm through with Initial D 4.

As far as I'm concerned, if I wanted a satisfying driving game I'd play Battle Gear 4. No invisible walls of frustration, no sluggish response from the wheel and a much more realistic driving experience make this my arcade racer of choice for realism.

Besides, I already have my own car and I've slain more than my share of giants in real life. People can harp about realism and my sucking in arcade driving games all they want. However, I've already humiliated a fair number of hotshot drivers on the streets---I have nothing else to prove.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Four years in the making

I haven't seen my friend Kathy in the longest time, so I was glad when we finally got the chance to go out last night.

After her party and my weekend work session, we met up at Shangri-la Plaza. The place is unfamiliar to both our peepers, so we ended up consulting the directory on where to go. After buying movie tickets, we ambled our way to California Pizza Kitchen for dinner, conversation and jokes.

We had an hour to burn before the movie began, so we simply walked around and window-shopped while laughing our guts out and making fools of ourselves.

Then "Hairspray" began. We marveled at newcomer and headliner Nikki Blonsky's perky sweetness, an in-drag John Travolta showing what he could have been before Saturday Night Fever, laughed at Christopher Walken's kooky gags and gasped at Michelle Pfeiffer's mean bitchy streak.

When big girl Tracy Turnblad's (Blonsky) dream to star on "The Corny Collins Show" comes true, she becomes a catalyst for social change as she fights for integration of African-Americans and plus-size women on TV in Baltimore, circa 1962. The movie is simply wonderful, both in message and execution, and within the first five minutes I decided I was going to buy this soundtrack.

In short, we had a rollicking good time.

Thanks Kathy! We should do this more often. I hope it doesn't take another four years.

Friday, September 07, 2007

"Everything's fine in the morning"

I absolutely love this song.

Little child, be not afraid
Though rain pounds harsh against the glass
Like an unwanted stranger, there is no danger
I am here tonight

Little child, be not afraid
Though thunder explodes and lightning crash
Illuminates your tear-stained face
I am here tonight

And someday you'll know
That nature is so
The same rain that draws you near me
Falls on rivers and land
On forests and sand
Makes the beautiful world that you'll see
In the morning

Little child, be not afraid
Though storm clouds mask your beloved moon
And its candlelight beams, still keep pleasant dreams
I am here tonight

Little child, be not afraid
Though wind makes creatures of our trees
And their branches to hands, they're not real, understand
And I am here tonight

And someday you'll know
That nature is so
The same rain that draws you near me
Falls on rivers and land
On forests and sand
Makes the beautiful world that you'll see
In the morning

For you know, once even I was a
Little child, and I was afraid
But a gentle someone always came
To dry all my tears, trade sweet sleep for fears
And to give a kiss goodnight

Well now I am grown
And these years have shown
That rain's a part of how life goes
But it's dark and it's late
So I'll hold you and wait
'Til your frightened eyes do close

And I hope that you'll know
That nature is so
The same rain that draws you near me
Falls on rivers and land
On forests and sand
Makes the beautiful world that you'll see
In the morning

Everything's fine in the morning,
The rain'll be gone in the morning,
But I'll still be here in the morning...

- Vienna Teng with Tiffany Shih, "Lullaby for a Stormy Night"

Friday, August 31, 2007

Celluloid wisdom

Over lunch, we got to watch "The Pursuit of Happyness." Say what you will about Will Smith, but apart from a few errors in continuity and history this movie is just about perfect...and Smith does put in a very very good performance.

At its core it's a heartwarming true story about a father in San Francisco who is determined to make ends meet and become successful in the worst possible circumstances. He has a five-year-old son, his wife leaves him for work in New York, he sells portable bone-density scanners no one wants and soon enough he's homeless. And while without a salary, he's trying for an internship only one person out of a batch of would-be stockbrokers will get.

What's admirable about Chris Gardner is how he took it all on the chin. In the face of adversity, he left the bare minimum of time to mope, if he did at all. Then he moved on to what he thought was the next best course of action.

And he did all this without leaving his son's side. His son knew first-hand what kind of a man his old man was.

One of the film's initial scenes is a downcast Chris watching a horde of happy stockbrokers. "What makes them so damn happy?" he muses. At the very end, we see him raising his hands, crying in joy, merging with the same crowd after all the hardship he had gone through.
===

Quotes of the moment:

"Don't ever let someone tell you, you can't do something, not even me. You got a dream, you gotta protect it. People can't do something themselves, they want to tell you you can't do it. You want something, you go get it. Period."
- Chris Gardner to his son, "The Pursuit of Happyness"

"You know what the problem with you is? You don't know when you've won."
- Jacob Fuller to Seth Gecko, "From Dusk Till Dawn"

Thursday, August 30, 2007

The "My Accenture" party photos

Not much of an update today, except for my uploaded photos of the recently concluded "My Accenture" party I was talking about in previous posts.

Click here to check them out. Enjoy!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Bumming out is healthy

My ten-day vacation comes to an end tonight. Tomorrow it's back to the same old Tuesday grind, waking up at 6 am to haul my ass to the office by 7 and avoid the MMDA.

What did I do the whole time I was out?

I had my "live" facial mole removed, for one. I'm now living with the post-operation idiosyncrasies: not wetting the wound for three days, applying antibiotic ointment, and contending with the Tegaderm bandage that refuses to stay still because of the location of my mole. It's so conveniently located on the corner of my mouth. After two weeks I'll see if this was all worth it.

A visit to the HMO clinic was also in my itinerary. I had a blood test done, but the doctor was quick to rule out anything wrong with my endocrine system. The proof's going to come tomorrow with the result of the blood test.

Yes, I went to Trinoma again...and you already know my impressions of the place. You also know what happened during the party last Saturday. Watching the Turkish Grand Prix was also on the menu but that doesn't need a vacation to do.

One of the things I said I missed was playing involving video games for hours on end. It turns out I didn't have to look very far. I already had a few pretty good games here I just didn't get to play anymore, most notably "Super Robot Wars: Original Generation" on the Game Boy Advance. That turn-based strategy game is so demanding of micro-management it turned me off the first time I played it, but now I finally understand how it all works. It takes me hours to get through individual missions, though.

It was a good vacation, and the break from work was much appreciated despite the lack of money for a trip or some other event of the sort. Unfortunately all things must come to an end, and too much of a tension-free time like this will make me dull.

I think I'll do this again in a few months.

Oh, and did I mention I managed a surprise 13.521 km/L?

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Of hoarse voices, anonymity and mole removal

Today marks the formal introduction of the two-month-old Accenture Chorale Group to the general public, via the "My Accenture" party at the PICC Forum. We've been rehearsing over the weekends and holidays for this day and our five-song lineup.

While we were a little irked at how the other celebrities kept pushing our performance time back, when we finally did perform, we didn't disappoint and our "hello" was greeted by appreciative applause. That, despite the many errors I committed and my voice running hoarse. We sang "Ode to Joy," "Ewan," "With A Little Help From My Friends" and our piece de resistance, "Seasons of Love."

Sugarfree totally rocks. They rocked out at center stage this afternoon to the whole crowd's delight, and this is the first time I got to watch them live. I couldn't resist taking snapshots and video. After their performance I even saw frontman Ebe Dancel watching the proceedings, hiding in relative anonymity after taking a leak. I wanted to meet the man and shake his hand, but due to our moving performance time I decided not to. Shame.

Today also marks my first public appearance after having my biggest mole removed...the live one on the right corner of my mouth. Because of the transparent adhesive covering to prevent infection, and the bleeding from the wound that just won't turn into a scab, people looked at me with the general expression of shock and the question of "what happened to you?" I don't think the wound's going to scab anytime soon because of the location, too---it's ridiculously hard to keep dry and still because I need to eat, drink, talk and sing.

That thick, big mole has become something of an identifying mark for me, a "signature" if you will. I had it removed for convenience and avoiding it from turning malignant, but that came at a rather hefty price that means I haven't had anything left to save. Sheesh.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Visiting the mall with the weird name

Everyone seems to be talking about that new mall in Quezon City called Trinoma. With this, Ayala is giving SM North Edsa some serious competition. Since I had the whole week off I decided to finally give it a visit.

Twice.

I don't know about you, but compared to Greenbelt, Alabang Town Center and Glorietta, Trinoma's parking complex is a huge mess. The whole place is too dark, and the roads snake around with no discernable pattern to them. There aren't enough signs to lead you to where you want to go, either. Most irritating is the way the levels have been set up---you can't go back down a level without having to pay for your parking ticket, and when you do go down, it's in one fell swoop.

When I finally got out of my Jazz and explored the area on foot, I found a decent mall with socking big halls. Around 40% of the stores are still closed, but the open shops are a good mix. A shame there aren't any ATMs apart from BPI's. I was expecting a mind-blowing mall layout, but Trinoma is just big and wide---a few stops short of plain-looking. Despite the Zen garden in the topmost level, it's definitely not a patch on Greenbelt.

One brownie point for Trinoma is its food court, though. I had Singapore-style black pepper chicken cutlet at Cavana for dinner and came away thoroughly pleased with the slow-burning spiciness. Other than that, my melon remains untwisted.

Makati is still my weekend haunt of choice.

Initial D 4 vs. Wangan Midnight Maximum Tune 3

Initial D 4 is finally out and I've just tried it.

First thing's first: the game is ridiculously expensive at PhP30 a pop. Okay, that's fair enough, but the thicker newfangled IC Card costs the equivalent of four games. Gulp.

Okay then. I buy a card, put in my usual car (a black Mazda RX-8 Type S) and go take it for a spin. There are a number of new courses now: Lake Akina is the new beginner loop track, while the previously looping Myogi has become a downhill/uphill mountain pass and thus much harder than before. At the very end of the difficulty ladder is Tsukuba. For my first few games I tried Myogi. It's much wider than the other mountain passes but it's also pretty challenging.

Unfortunately this is the biggest failing of Initial D 4: it feels almost artificially hard. While battling against Takeshi Nakazato and his R32 Skyline GT-R, I found it too easy to lose control of my drifts and I was colliding against invisible "walls" that logically should not exist. I kept losing against Nakazato no matter what I did.

I appreciate the fact that actual drifts are now part of the game, but it's nowhere near as intuitive as it should be. I doubt it's just the learning curve.

My gaming money goes to Wangan Midnight Maximum Tune 3, thanks. Cheaper, more intuitive and faster to boot---the only thing I don't like is the horde of game hogs that load up PhP1000 on their cards and play the whole afternoon away.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

"Seasons of Love"

Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
Five hundred twenty-five thousand moments so dear
Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
How do you measure, measure a year?

In daylights, in sunsets, in midnights, in cups of coffee
In inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife, in
Five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes
How do you measure a year in the life?

How about love?
How about love?
How about love?
Measure in love...
Seasons of love
Seasons of love...

Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
Five hundred twenty-five thousand journeys to plan
Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
How do you measure the life of a woman or a man?

In truths that she learned or in times that he cried
In bridges he burned or the way that she died?
It's time now to sing out though the story never ends
Let's celebrate, remember a year in the life of friends

Remember the love
Remember the love
Remember the love
Measure in love...
Seasons of love
Seasons of love...

- from the Broadway play "Rent"

Friday, August 17, 2007

Jaded

Once again, Cher, you prove that you are indeed my fwend, because you can see right through me even though we've never met in person.

That's right, my day-to-day life is no fun at all. Maybe that's why, try as I might, I've had difficulty with saving as I keep squandering my money on pointless things. I am lonely but I am tired of trying to fit in with colleagues whom I know will never laugh or marvel at the same things I do. My laugh seems loud and full but frequntly it's just an act I put on.

Despite being jaded, I'm still hoping for someone to come along and prove that I can live my life laughing. I'm still hoping that someone could make me see the joy in things I've dismissed as overhyped.

I'm still waiting, but I'm not sure for how long I'll be willing to.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Aural sanctuary

Spelunking around malls on my frequent window-shopping weekends, I've come across many a gadget store and checked out the wares being sold. Usually the ones I fancy run the gamut of digital audio players, cellphones and computer parts like hard disks and flash drives.

One gadget that can't be ignored as of late: headphones and earphones. Headphones I already know well, but my curiosity got piqued when I found tech stores selling fancy earphones for a whopping PhP21,000. What could be so good about a couple of funny-looking earbuds that, on initial impression, just look like they fit better than normal ones? That most earbuds don't fit my finicky ears doesn't help either.

Lucky for me, not all these so-called canalphones or in-ear monitors (IEMs) sell at such exorbitant prices. I chanced upon Creative's EP-635s, costing a much more reasonable (though still pricey) PhP1,500, and I decided to try these IEMs with their fit-adjusting exchangable tips for myself.

Initially I dreaded I may have wasted my money. Bass was a bit lacking, and high notes seemed a little scratchy. It wasn't until I figured out the proper fit of these 'phones---fitting the biggest silicone rubber tips, then twisting them all the way into my ears for an airtight seal---that I realized what the fuss was about.

Instantly I was 80% isolated from the normal noise of my workplace, with nothing but the music and the sounds of my own breathing and swallowing. The satisfying bass thump on my trance CDs began to fill my head, vocals sounded clearer at just 15% total volume, and I could hear instruments on my rock CDs I never noticed before. This was aural sanctuary, and I loved it!

This doesn't mean I condone spending almost twenty times that amount for a Shure E500PTH, but now I'm a convert and I can see why some people spend serious cash on these tiny things.

Modified cars, stupid drivers

When visibility is poor, the roads are wet and the rain is pouring in buckets, I don't understand why there are idiots on the road who still insist on doing everything wrong---passing from the right, not turning on headlights, tailgating at high speed, and getting to within inches of a collision.

All in my Wednesday morning commute, folks.

I kept the pressure from this C5-charging white ES Civic at bay today, and narrowly avoided the low, low bonnet of an overeager S2000 while trying to change lanes in a crawling EDSA. Both had a collection of parts fitted, including stickers, badges and larger-than-stock wheels and tires.

So is this to say the more aftermarket parts you buy and fit on your car, the stupider a driver you get?

A chilling thought. Which is why I opt to keep my car stock and modify my driving skills instead.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

The first review

It's that time of the year when everyone gets to talk with their manager and find out just how well they did...and if they've been seen fit to be promoted or given a salary increase come September.

As Robert is currently in the UK and very busy with work, we were all asked to call him in his morning hours before the floodgates of hell, er, his work, open. My turn came last Thursday.

He told me it was particularly tough to get recognized this year as my peers in my level are very good (and I can attest to that). However I still performed well enough to be given a favorable rating, which means that by next month I'll be "progressed" to the next level.

It's good news, yes. But somehow I feel it's a hollow victory. It's only going to get tougher from here on in and I've heard stories about how difficult it is to get promoted once again---and here I was, naively thinking I'd get there by November 2008.

This is where I feel the struggle begins. No doubt there will be a few toes that will be stepped on as everyone targets that promotion to the next higher level. I know it's all about respect but let's be honest, things can get cutthroat when a promotion is on the cards.

We will see.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

The grass wasn't greener on the other side after all

I remember as a kid how I wanted to be all grown up. Being an adult seemed so exciting and unrestricted. You could do so many things that you were barred to do as a kid.

Well now that I'm an adult I'm struggling to see what all the excitement and fuss was about. The tantalizing things reserved for grown-ups have proved themselves disappointing. C'mon, let's face it, drinking is the vice of choice for millions of people. However, beer tastes like stale saliva and most hard liquor tastes like shit. Smoking looks cool and rebellious, but doing it is akin to sucking on burning rope. Finally, sex with strangers seems so wild and wanton, but it's not as glamorous or as enjoyable as the media portrays it.

I was trying to get past my childhood and adolescence too quickly in the hopes of having it better as an adult. Heh. Boy, was I wrong or what?

Friday, August 03, 2007

Something I've noticed

I'm looking for excuses to get out of the office as early as I can. Why? I guess it's because there's something in my job I'm not enjoying.

Given that I was never very keen on an IT career, and that the people are the only reasons why I'm enjoying...hmmm. What do you think?

Perhaps I've had my fill of my peer-level colleagues. I have to admit it. I am never going to fit in with them, and frankly I've given up trying. They're forming ever closer bonds with each day, bonds which they purposely avoid to form with me. Sigh. Such is life.

If I am to keep enjoying my work, I have to meet other people. My world does not have to end within the four walls of my office. I just hope that I find more real friends in the community activities I've committed myself to.

Lost in communication, somewhere

You preach the gospel of simplicity. What I see is what I get, huh?

Unfortunately, it can't be that simple. When the channels of communication are as limited in expression as instant messaging, forum posts and emails, there are so many different ways of "seeing" lines of text that make up a "conversation" between virtual strangers. Not all those ways of "seeing" are pleasant, I'm afraid.

Perhaps I got my hopes up too high. After six years, I never thought I would get jaded with meeting new friends over the Internet.

All we are is dust in the wind, or so the song goes. No, all we are to each other is a bunch of electronic characters. A shame.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Snuffed out early

The object of my affection is someone's girlfriend---er, fiancee. Just my luck I guess.

It's better this way. It's better I learned this early instead of much, much later. It saved me a lot of effort and humiliation.

As long as I sing...

After five months away, I am back with the Cybergate Choir. I'm very happy to report things have only gotten better since the pressures of work whisked me off singing for the First Friday Masses.

The Choir itself has grown. I remember the days when there was just six or seven of us singing; when we rehearsed last Wednesday we were close to twenty. The sheer number of us means we should now have a more balanced sound where us male singers had previously overpowered the ladies. I saw a lot of new faces, most of them volunteering from the Accenture Chorale.

Nelson joined Agnes as choirmaster and pianist---a welcome development as he was very effective in teaching us the voicing of our new songs. Speaking of new songs, we've got a fair number of them now. My current favorite is "Hesus ng Aking Buhay."

I want to keep on singing with them as long as I can. Work will be a lot more manageable if I have an outlet for my pent-up creativity, and the new crew seems really fun to be with.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Things and people I miss

Playing video games.

Not worrying about money.

1995 and the "golden age" of modern OPM alternative rock.

Playing really long video games, especially the epic RPGs that take 80-100 hours to finish.

My friend Denise Melendres.

My dad's old ten-speed Peugeot road bike.

Recess and lunch breaks with my friends from senior year high school.

Bro. Arian Lopez, FSC.

The De La Salle Zobel Publications and Public Relations office.

PANTONE 121 CVU.

Making layout for Counterpoint.

Everyone that became part of the staff of Counterpoint.

My youth.

Falling in love.

Charmed out of my oath

I swore just a few months ago that I wouldn't fall for colleagues again.

Apparently I haven't learned my lesson.

Yes, yes, there is a certain someone I find attractive and I am smitten, again. I have two options: make use of the brief time I have left to get to know her better, or leave her be and regret the what-might-have-beens later.

Decisions, decisions. It's more complicated this time.

Crud. What on earth am I doing?

Sunday, July 29, 2007

"...You know where to find me"

I see a shadow every day and night
I walk a hundred streets of neon lights,
Only when I'm crying
Can you hear me crying?
So many times you always wanted more,
Chasing illusions that you're longing for
Wish I wasn't crying
Can you hear me crying?

There's an ocean between us
You know where to find me
You reach out and touch me
I feel you in my own heart
More than a lifetime
Still goes on forever
But it helps to remember
You're only an ocean away

Was there a moment when I felt no pain?
I want to feel it in my life again
Let it be over now
Oh, oh, over now
'Cause I remember all the days and nights
We used to walk the streets of neon lights
Oh, I want you here with me
Oh, be here with me

There's an ocean between us
You know where to find me
You reach out and touch me
I feel you in my own heart
More than a lifetime
Still goes on forever
But it helps to remember
You're only an ocean away

So many times you always wanted more,
Chasing illusions that you're longing for
Wish I wasn't crying
Can you hear me crying?

There's an ocean between us
You know where to find me
Just reach out and touch me
I feel you in my own heart
More than a lifetime
It seems like forever
But I'll always remember
You're only an ocean away

Only an ocean away...

- Sarah Brightman, "Only an Ocean Away"

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Ennui: Quarter-life crisis part deux

I want something new.

I don't like my circumstances at present. I am tired. I get cranky. I get weird. One by one, the reasons why I'm enjoying work seem like they're deleting themselves. I still have about ten months to go if I really want to leave.

Perhaps I just need a break; it's been a while since I had one. I filed for a week of vacation leave in mid-August. As yet, I have no idea what I'll be doing with my time. I want to invite some friends, but at the same time I would rather go somewhere or do something by myself in that span of time.

Sadness is creeping over me. Why exactly, I don't know. It just is. It's got nothing to do with love. I'm just dissatisfied and disillusioned, perhaps, with what's happening to me. I feel I should be doing something else that isn't such a waste of my youth. This was probably what my dad saw almost fifteen years ago.

The long and short of it is, all I really want to do is laugh. I want to guffaw and have it ping off the walls until my gut hurts. I'm tired of laughing and having it stop abruptly. I'm tired of being a laugh track for other people's stand-up comedy acts.

I want to meet someone who can make me---and I should really trademark this phrase because I use it so often---"stupidly happy."

That's because I want to live laughing.