about the talking fish

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Writer. Wheelman. Occasional DIY mechanic. Walking collection of hang-ups. Hopeless romantic. Old-school. Analog soul in a digital world. I am all of these things and more.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

2010 was a good year for...

Travel. Bohol, Bacolod, Baguio, Nasugbu and Tagaytay were some of the notable places Mav and I went to this year, and I loved every minute. Baguio was particularly memorable: until recently I've gotten sick of going there because my mom insisted on going at every possible opportunity without giving me freedom to explore on my own. Not this time. Even though Baguio is "Manila in the mountains" nowadays, it still has hidden gems worth seeking out.

Car racing and trackdays. I had to take 10 months' hiatus off racing due to other priorities, but it was always great. I hit my personal best lap record in Subic International Raceway (58.93 sec), learned my way around Batangas Racing Circuit (2:20.8), and sampled the tire-destroying long track of the Clark International Speedway (no lap time).

Health and exercise. I was able to stick to a gym schedule for six months. I also participated in a new hobby: running. Tentative efforts around February and March began to stick around October until the present, where I started competing in my first 3K and 5K races - both with respectable first-attempt times. In 2011 I'll aim for a couple of 10K events. I may not have lost much weight, but I'm proud to say I'm in a better state of fitness than in the past few years.

Filipino movies. Mav's efforts to steer me toward Filipino movies have paid off. I've learned to appreciate them for what they are, even discovering some legitimate gems along the way. I enjoyed "Cinco" and "My Amnesia Girl." I'm just hoping we move on from the rom-coms.

Formula 1. And here I was thinking 2009 was a brilliant season celebrating the underdog. 2010 was genuinely dramatic, with five men in a position to win the driver's championship up until the penultimate race of the season. I don't like Red Bull Racing's raceday impotence, I don't like Sebastian Vettel's prattish attitude, but they both deservedly won their championships in style.

2010 was a bad year for...

Car clubs and forums. Not worth my time these days. I've done a respectable run over almost 7 years. When the headaches and gossip over blown egos outstrips the pleasure and advantages of participation, I think it's time to throttle back or let go altogether.

Work. Most of the people I started working with have left and I think I've realized why. My environment no longer supports my professional development. It's one of the only things that's kept me anchored, and even that's disappeared altogether. I'm not sure I can wait until September. The time to act is probably now.

Personal websites. See how badly I've neglected my own blog? Enough said.

Personal real estate. It's been frustrating looking at condominiums and houses for sale. At my current salary and the rate I'm going (see Work above), I'll never be able to pay off a house or condominium of my own - not now. Right now all I can do is concentrate on investing more and more into my current savings bond.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Move over Initial D, I have Initial G

In high school and college, my exposure to motorsport was limited to watching Formula 1 and playing driving games like Gran Turismo and the Initial D arcade game series.

I remember how it was such a big deal back then, especially to the Initial D crowd, to understand the idiosyncrasies of the game's physics and how to successfully exploit them to make the fastest possible course time records. The first three games in particular had this ridiculous "eraser" trick that involved abusing the sequential gear shift to "erase" speed and understeer.

When the fourth game came along with revamped physics, each corner had an arbitrary speed limit. If you exceeded this speed, the game would impose a "penalty" on you, force your car to understeer, and hit the corner's outside wall. Aficionados later discovered a technique called the "penalty cancel," which involved fancy pedalwork this time. Initial D Arcade Stage 4 also basically drifted and decelerated the car for you as long as you made a certain style of corner entry - look Ma no downshifts!

As you can see none of these things was terribly realistic. If I wanted realism I had the Gran Turismo franchise and Forza Motorsport 2 to fulfill that.

Then along came my trackdays in Subic and Batangas...which I've talked about at length in previous posts.

Last Friday, while wating for Mav to arrive from work, I took a spin in the Initial D Arcade Stage 5 machine - the latest installment of the arcade racer. This game is the most realistic of the series yet, with no stupid "eraser" or "penalty cancel" tricks to exploit. You really have to downshift to second gear for the mountain hairpins, as you would in real life, and depending on your car, you WILL understeer if you overcook the entrance of a turn.

It's actually amazing how my perspective has changed. Now that I've proven myself a handy driver in actual circuit time attacks, I look at Initial D Arcade Stage 5 and don't really consider it a big deal any more. Taking to Akina and Irohazaka, I appreciate how the game's driving physics are finally correctly realistic, but because I do not feel any of the G-forces of cornering and braking, I am all the more aware that I am just playing a game.

By the time Mav arrived, I had set my personal best times at Akina and Irohazaka, slashing two or three seconds from my beginning attempts. It definitely felt like I was driving at those two infamous mountain passes, and as before, I was sweating from the concentration and effort. However, it just did not compare to the visceral thrill of carrying speed through Brian's Corner, properly attacking the double apex of R-Bend, or successfully hooking up at all the little corner gutters around Subic International Raceway.

Initial D aficionados can keep hogging the machines. Aibo and I race for real.

Jaded with the Internet

These days I go online and look at the Internet and go to my usual sites and spend hours clicking away until I realize I'm basically looking at nothing. I'm clicking at the Refresh button and seeing no change when I expect something fresh to appear.

The pathetic thing about this is I go online almost everyday.

I am seriously bored with it.

Perhaps it's time for me to get off my bum, forget about the Internet and all its stupidity, and just do something physical for a change.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Skyway scare

This morning I had a minor scare while driving along the Skyway. A loud bang emanated from underneath Aibo. Afterwards I had noticed every time I braked, I heard and felt something wiggle on the left front.

Pulling over at Makati Medical Center, I tried changing wheels and used my spare. The problem didn't go away, however. Dropping off Mav at her office, I drove to Pitworkz Hongly in Sucat.

There the problem became apparent. The lower control arm that I had them replace last Saturday wasn't as securely bolted on as it should have been, and had come loose. A once-over with an impact wrench later and it was back to normal. Without any trailing cars, I sped up and braked hard a few times along Sucat Road, and Aibo's surefooted braking stability was back.

Whew. I'm just grateful nothing worse happened.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Sunday, February 28, 2010

First crack at BRC

When Edward told me about a trackday event at Batangas Racing Circuit to be sponsored by Cong. Mark Mendoza...I wasn't about to pass it up. Seeing how much costlier BRC's rental fee is compared to Subic International Raceway, I immediately jumped at the chance.

My first exposure to it was in Mel's car, with me and Cliff along for the ride. Mel himself was following our instructor JP Castellano driving one of his students' Civics. JP's first lap was deliberately taken slow so that we could see the correct line through the corners, effectively in slow motion. After that, Mel decided he wanted a crack at the circuit left to his own devices.

I distinctly remember being a little spooked at first. Mel understeered through several corners at first, trying to learn the correct line at speed. The scariest part was the chicane. Understeer through that and you have nowhere to go but the tire wall, which Cliff sadly had a taste of first-hand.

When it was my turn to ride along with my groupmates (experienced from previous trackdays but new to BRC), I didn't fare much better than Mel's first foray either. BRC is loaded with double-apex turns, and I had frustration all morning with the very deceptive R-Bend. All told, I had Mav time me and I got a lap time of 2:28.6. So much room for improvement there.

Later in the afternoon I got tips from my friend Francis Arjonillo and, later on, JP himself while driving Cliff's car Sam, scuffs and all. I was fascinated with spots on the track where one could actually induce understeer to squeeze out a little more exit speed - critical for a low-powered car like Aibo. Momentum maintenance was the key. With their tutelage, I slashed my time down to a personal best of 2:20.8. JP was glad I cut eight seconds just by observation.

The best was yet to come though. Before the end of the day, I bugged JP to drive Aibo. I wanted to see how much more I could improve, and he obliged. With astonishing self-belief, he dove deep into the corners with super-late braking, and screeched Aibo's Toyo Proxes 4s from entry to exit round many a double apex. Such consistency too: all his laps were 2:18s or 2:17s, the best one a brake-fluid-boiling 2:17.21. After JP's stint, the tires and brakes had overheated and the brake pedal went noticeably longer due to bubbling fluid under hard use. Notably though, we shared a very similar line.

I'm very glad I got to sample BRC the way I did. My only regret was I didn't have my own GoPro or ContourHD camcorder to record my laps - I had to rely on Mav's brother Paolo and his cellphone for that. I'm looking forward to more.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Why, dammit, why

Why can't we all just get along?

Why can't we just follow the damn rules and respect the people in authority?

Why can't we just listen to the grievances of others without biases?

Why can't we stop crowding and tailgating other cars while driving?

Why do our egos always have to get in the way?

Why don't we look enough times before we leap?

Why won't the feuding ever stop?

Why do we have to get jealous of what other people have?

Why are we so trigger-happy?

Twenty-eight days ain't enough

February is a busy, busy month for me - much busier than normal.

Last week Mav and I went to Canyon Cove for my birthday and to ACE Water Spa on the weekend, and then the week before that I went to Niku and Chielou's fabulous wedding.

Tomorrow my mate Ador and I will be participating at the Accenture Badminton Club Cup tournament, while the weekend after, Mav, Joghz, Paolo, Ara and I will be going to Batangas Racing Circuit for my first trackday there.

All the while, my beloved Uncle Butch and Auntie Carole are vacationing here with us until the beginning of March.

It's certainly a jam-packed month. So many things are happening every week that it actually feels slower and more enjoyable than normal. I think I could've planned it out a little better so I could spend more time with my aunt and uncle, but so far so good.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Happy birthday to me

Wow I've turned yet another year on my life. I must be getting old! Hahaha!

It was a lovely lazy day spent with the love of my life on a road trip to one of the coolest resorts in Batangas, Canyon Cove. Then we had a great dinner at Manos Greek Taverna in Tagaytay. Aibo's legs really got stretched this time as we overtook a bunch of cars at full throttle along Nasugbu and Tagaytay's streets.

Not a bad way to turn twenty-seven. Wait a minute, who's counting again?

Thanks much to everyone who greeted and everyone who gave me presents: Tita Hedwig for the gorgeous Seiko 5 SNZG57K automatic watch, Mav for the very early present of the Deuter Giga laptop backpack, Bianca for her hand-me-down 5800, Mama for the cool, racey-looking jacket, and Papa for the nice black belt.

I'm sunburnt, red-eyed, tired, pooped but very happy. Ta ta!

Friday, February 05, 2010

Windows of opportunity

Apologies for not updating as often as I should. PLDT has basically given me the shoddiest DSL ever and it's become nigh-impossible to catch it working at home.

I am in a fascinating time. There are so many opportunities and activities opening up for me that I can't help but get excited at all the potential I'm smelling.

For three weeks now Mav and I have been jogging at Bonifacio High Street. We basically thought of turning to running as a way of keeping ourselves fit and maybe lose some weight, but so far we've been enjoying ourselves pounding away at the hard-packed concrete sidewalks. Mav is steadily getting better as she gets used to the demands of jogging.

Team Flat Out also invited me to Don Pastor's plan of making what they call a "gentlemen's racing series" - basically an open wheel-to-wheel racing class for daily driven cars and amateur drivers who have no racing licenses. If you can imagine what Keiichi Tsuchiya and his fellow race-driver co-hosts do on every episode of "Best Motoring" around Tsukuba Circuit, I reckon you wouldn't be far off.

Also when I try figuring out what I want to do with my life, it seems everything points to the direction of cars. Summit Media, that publishing giant with its offices just three floors down from mine, had a number of job vacancies, and Mav encouraged me to send in my application. Sadly there was no opening for "Top Gear Philippines" but maybe I could start elsewhere with that dream of being an automotive journalist in mind.

My only reservations revolve around leaving my comfort zone, I suppose. For better or worse I've adapted to my current situation pretty well, and there's a part of me that's fearful of leaving something that's already pretty secure. Then again I seem to have hit a wall and have stopped growing...perhaps because I've grown tired of my daily work grind.

So many opportunities, yet so many insecurities as well. It's an exciting time to be alive.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Another year, another trackday

To kick off the year right, I signed up for the 2nd Pitworkz/Hongly Trackday, once again held at Subic International Raceway. I had Mav and her brother Paolo along once again for the ride.

Unlike the December 5 event where just 10 of us shared the track on an extended, timed practice session, this trackday was a sold-out blockbuster affair with well over 40 participants. The majority of the runners were EG, EK and ES Civics, but this time there were trios of Subaru Imprezas and BMWs in the fray too. Also notable is the participation of a lot of track virgins, such as my friend Clifford Ang and his GE8 Jazz 1.5.

Bracketing was also implemented in the style of run-what-you-brung (RWYB) competitions. Basically all the drivers and cars were given a chance to set two hot laps, and this determines in which one of four time brackets the drivers will participate in. I slotted into Bracket C, where I eventually would win second place with a new record time of 58.4 seconds.

I had broken my previous record, but somehow it wasn't as satisfying as the last trackday. Key to this was the lack of consistency. After I had set that 58.4-second "magic lap" where my line was virtually perfect and I had no mistakes from start to end, I started to over-analyze things and began to obsess about getting the Turn 3 entry/exit correctly. That led to understeering at Turns 1 and 2, scrubbing my front tires and worsening my subsequent lap times. I never again managed another lap faster than 59 seconds after lunch time.

Fastest time of the day went to Doc Luis Buencamino and his GDB Subaru Impreza STi, with monster StopTech brakes and festooned with three GoPro sport camcorders. The blue-and-black Scooby ripped through Subic at an astonishing pace, bagging a 47.67-second lap time in the early afternoon.

Mav finally got to ride shotgun with me in Aibo while the track was open to free practice in the morning, and she took it well. I was amazed at how calm she was in the co-pilot's seat and how well she took video of my practice lap with my Mavica while I was attacking the corners and trying to forge my way past the less-experienced drivers. Paolo also rode shotgun and took an eight-minute-long video clip with his cellphone.

After a green beginning that was less than pleasant, Cliff eventually found his groove and saw his time tumble to a personal best of 1:04. Mel meanwhile got to within a whisker of his aim of breaking the one-minute mark with a 1:00.08.

The Bracket C win gifted me with a trophy and a four-liter can of FK/Massimo Super SS-X mineral engine oil. Although the deal would have been sweeter had I won fully synthetic oil, I'm not complaining about a free oil change - all I have to pay for are a crush washer, oil filter and perhaps labor.

It looks like my goal of breaking the 57-second barrier with Aibo still in stock condition will have to wait.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

The calm before the trip...

As I write this post I'm in Mav's bedroom. I'm sleeping here tonight because of the long-awaited Bohol trip tomorrow, and we have to leave for the airport by 3 am.

The funny thing about this is it still feels like the trip is weeks away and not tomorrow morning. Perhaps that's because Mav and I have been planning this for quite a long while now - about five months ago to be exact. I'm not psyched up about it. Rather I feel strangely calm.

We'll see if I'll be singing to a different tune when I get back on Saturday afternoon. Hahaha!

Until then, guys.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Beginning 2010 in a drunken stupor

People who know me well know that I don't drink much, especially the hard stuff. I'm more of a red wine kind of guy.

So you can imagine what happened to me when Uncle Butch sent in 750mL of Patron's finest "Silver" agave tequila for the consumption of me, my dad, Uncle Gerry, Uncle Joey and my cousin-in-law Miguel on Bianca's birthday.

In hindsight, I took it pretty well, I guess. I paced myself as best as I could. I can definitely say that tequila is not something to drink the same way one would drink wine or whiskey. You don't smell it, you don't check its "legs" (as they say in whiskey tasting), you don't let the flavor linger in your mouth. None of that gubbins. You take the shot glass and chug it down as quickly as you can, then hurriedly reach for a lemon or lime slice and lick some salt. You don't drink tequila to enjoy its taste - you drink it because you want to get drunk as quickly as you can!

And drunk did I get. I am perpetually afraid of reaching that humiliating point where I can no longer control myself, nor can I remember the events that transpired in any part of my life when I should really be fully conscious. All that happened was that I nursed a heavy cold weight in my head for a pretty long while, and my loud-by-default voice got even louder. Heck, I could even park Aibo in reverse back into our garage from the church parking lot across the street - inch-perfect.

At least that's all that happened while the party was still happening at my house. When all the guests left, I finally took to the sanctuary of my bed...and felt dizzy and ill. Fortunately for me it lasted only as long as the first piss I took in the toilet, which was about an hour later.

At least I now know my limit in the safest possible environs because I got drunk in my house, not somewhere I should be driving back home from.

Happy new year. *hic*