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?


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.

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."


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.