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.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008 was a good year for...

Love. Mav and I have been together for three and a half months at this writing...and every minute has been a blast so far. My waiting seems worth it because I really don't want anybody else. I love you my baby.

Cooking. Not so long ago I learned how to cook my very first real dish, and even served it to my colleagues soon after. With great results, may I add. Here's to more culinary capers.

Saving. I set myself an ambitious financial target with the Bride Digo seat, and I've proven I can discipline myself enough financially to reach it. The funny thing is, no matter how hard I've saved up these past four or five months, I'm still nowhere near buying the damn thing because so many other expenses got in the way. The final nail in that coffin was when I went to Auto Circuit a few days ago, only to be told they didn't have stocks. No matter, the "Digo fund" has gone to good use---mainly revolving around car maintenance. And I'm still saving.

My car. Boy, was my Aibo spoiled: new wheels, hub-centric rings, Work RS lugnuts, rust removal, repainting, detailing, and the promise of new modifications around the corner. He even got his fifteen seconds of fame by appearing on Honda's Challenge Magazine. This was also the year I appreciated the peculiarities of washing a car properly.

Knowing who my real friends are. I've had a lot of bullshit come my way this year, but I take comfort in the fact that my real friends have stayed with me despite the pain. Even though some of them have left me behind, their presence spurs me to continue living forward.

2008 was a bad year for...

My car and its accidents. My stock wheels got damaged by a huge rut along the Sta. Rosa SLEX entry point. Friday July the 13th really bit hard into my and Aibo's ass when a bus-shaped, bus-sized suppository came crashing into my life. Aibo got white paint droplets from careless painters at my workplace. A few days ago, one of my 16" wheels suffered damage due to a runaway piece of dense, chopped firewood that snaked across the SLEX. Everything's been repaired now, but really, how I wish Aibo and I could have avoided all of that expense and grief!

Reconnecting. Getting in touch with Dynee Balleza-Sheafor was the sole highlight this year. Everything else went sour quickly, to the point that there are some people I do not want to see ever again.

Health. I can't count the number of times a simple cold managed to complicate itself this year into something more serious. This year had me suffering from more fatigue than ever before, too.

Exercise and fitness. There are a number of reasons why I was a failure at keeping fit this year. Perhaps I've lost my motivation. Perhaps I've pushed myself too hard at exercising to the point that I actually got sick after a taebo session. Whatever the reason is, I have a fitness goal to work on in 2009.

Work. I'm still thankful I have my job, but it's definitely become much less of a pleasurable experience than it used to be. The atmosphere in my workplace resembles a garrison sometimes. It doesn't help that most of the colleagues I've held dear have left for greener pastures, either. I'm beginning to wonder if I can last the number of years I promised myself I would.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

CHRISTmas 2008: No time for long faces

Christmas sure isn't doing me and my stomach any favors. With food being served left and right, it's a major challenge just trying to keep control. Some dietitians say people shouldn't deprive themselves or exercise too much control over their diets over the holidays, but the scary truth is, a lot of people seem to die in December or January due to hypertension or heart attacks. Until I can shed these Christmas calories, hot tea is my friend.

People say us Filipinos are a lucky bunch in these times because we hardly feel the effects of the global economic recession that's torn chunks out of every other country. Whether it's due to Philippine economic factors such as low production of exports, or the opinion that "we've been in shitty times before the recession anyway" is debatable, although both are valid. In the US, though, things are pretty bad (or are they really? The Americans have a habit of exaggerating and living in the extremes, right Dynee?). People are waiting with bated breath over the future of their careers; not even my beloved Uncle Butch's tenure is bulletproof now.

I know I frequently criticize Fr. Ramon Ramos' overly long homilies and repetitive themes, but his sermon today was really on point. So much of the things we say and sing about the season aren't really related to Christmas itself. It's not about overflowing food and chestnuts roasting on an open fire, or dashing through the snow in a one-horse open sleigh, and it's definitely not about being broken-hearted or having gifts. The real reason we're celebrating today is because the Man Upstairs loved us so much that He wanted to see how it was like living as one of us. That very thought alone is cause for a lot of celebration---so despite the so-called recession, let's not have Him catch us with long faces. Let's not forget Him in our revelry, either.

Merry Christmas, everyone.

Birth of a cook

My Wisconsin friend Dynee would be glad to know that I have finally shorn off my long-standing ignorance in the kitchen.

Well, sort of. I'm still largely a culinary nincompoop, but now at least, I can proudly claim that I am able to cook pasta...specifically my mom's delicious "pomodoro penne" with tomatoes, basil and oregano.

Spurred on by a dare from Mav, I made it a point to cook my first dish in time for Christmas. Fortunately, my colleagues at work came up with the idea of a "Christmas lunch" celebration, held just before everyone parted ways for the holidays. Given that this is an absolute first time for me cooking for anyone else, I was particularly nervous.

It had turned out better than I ever hoped. When I served my large bowl of pasta, by the time the luncheon had wound down it was virtually empty except for a negligible amount of penne. The culinary experts at work, Karen, Dionie and Jen, all proclaimed it delicious. Dionie told me afterwards that I should try making pasta with white sauce next. We'll see about that.

Not forgetting the original dare, I set aside a small portion for Mav to sample...and she found it up to snuff, too.

Anyhow, here's the recipe if anyone fancies a go...it's really a simple one to be honest.


Olive oil
One head garlic, crushed
One onion, diced
One large can Molinera sun-dried tomatoes with tomato juice
500g bag of penne/rigatoni pasta
One small bowlful of pasta broth
One handful of fresh basil leaves
One handful of fresh or dried oregano leaves

To season:
Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce
Knorr all-purpose seasoning
Cheese for topping (Parmesan, Edam or Romano)

Boil some water and cook the penne or rigatoni for 8 minutes or until al dente. Drain the pasta, but set aside some of the broth for later.

Saute the onions in olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the crushed garlic when the onions have caramelized. Saute for 3 more minutes, then open the can and add the tomatoes. Once the tomatoes are in, reduce the heat to low while stirring. Take the basil and oregano leaves and slice them into strips, then add them into the pan. Cook thoroughly.

Season the sauce accordingly. To cut the sour tang of the tomatoes, add some Worcestershire sauce, Knorr seasoning and sugar. Add salt sparingly. If desired, use a pepper mill on the pan. After seasoning, add in the pasta, making sure the sauce coats it evenly. Cook for about 5 minutes. At the end, add in one small bowl of the pasta broth to avoid the pasta sticking to each other. Serve. Top with grated Parmesan, Romano or Edam cheese.

This dish will serve 8-10 people.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

For whom am I going to cheer for now?

First, Honda made a shock announcement that it's withdrawing from Formula 1 next year.

Next, Suzuki and Subaru have effectively short-circuited their campaigns in the FIA World Rally Championship and quit, effective 2009.

What a shame. Just when things were beginning to come into fruition for these three beloved Japanese car companies with sport in their blood, the faltering economy and, in Subaru's case, harsh rule changes (which require it to manufacture a brand-new car in 2010 just to enter) made it so easy for their boards of directors to quickly slash the red ink across the motorsport campaigns that characterized them.

The most poignant of these three "victims" is Honda. They fought through Formula 1 in 2007 and 2008 with dogs for cars but threw development effort into their 2009 entry very early in the season. Now it's all going to waste when it finally seemed so promising.

What a crying shame.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

A very expensive season...but worth it

It's not as if it's anything new, but it's still the case and worth mentioning anyway.

Mav has asked me a number of times about what my favorite season is, and I usually never give her a straight answer because I don't really know which time of the year I like best myself. I'm realizing now however that Christmas does rank pretty high up there.

People who've followed my blog know that I'm now in my third year of giving special Christmas presents to people I don't know very well. (I'll have to come up with a catchy name for that---it's just too Zoolander-ish.) This year's recipient is our beloved Accenture Chorale and Cybergate Choir maestro, Nelson Albano. The man's helped a lot of people with his brilliant talent and love for music and I figured it's about time I gifted him with something he loved. He was thanking me profusely for the JLA Volume 1 hardbound compilation I gave him---Nelson's a big DC Comics fan.

I guess I realized I like Christmas after all. There's a certain joy to giving people gifts that really hit the spot and make them happy, whether it's something they really need or will find useful (I gifted PJ with a Built NY Tidy Bib for his daughter Chelsea), or something they really like (Mav's Belle du Jour planner from Powerbooks, and Nelson's JLA). Note that all of the presents I've mentioned I've already given away.

Focusing on quality rather than quantity does it for me, and I shop relatively early too. I purposely keep my Christmas lists very short so I can focus on what best to give them.

Now if we could only skip the wallet-thinning and belly-expanding properties of the season I think it'd well be perfect.

Aibo goes to the doctors...

At last, Aibo's maintenance-related expenses are done...for now.

The 40,000-km maintenance service, the rust removal and panel repaint, and general air-conditioning maintenance took a huge bite out of my so-called "Bride Digo fund." All those expenses basically cut the fund in half, which means I have to start saving up again if I'm to get any closer to the big-ticket items I had originally intended to get for Aibo a long time ago.

Still, the cruel reality of car ownership is that things can go wrong literally behind your back. This morning I was up at 6 a.m., washing and drying Aibo with the loud homily of our parish priest as background noise. After lunch I decided to remove all the car mats for cleaning. The instant I removed all the mats at the back, I was aghast to see a long lick of bird guano on Aibo's left rear door when it was clean seconds ago.

The air-con was a particularly huge source of frustration for a while now. The system would start fine, but when I saw the tachometer needle tick over at a 2000 RPM idle, I immediately knew my A/C's cooling had gone. It started as an intermittent problem that unfortunately became a regular phenomenon...and driving around with no A/C in the middle of traffic-riddled Manila in December is emphatically not a pleasant experience.

Now, back to the good stuff...I wonder when I'll get those new tires, Tein High-Tech lowering springs and that coveted Bride Digo?