Friday, December 23, 2005

End of the year resolutions (tick tick, tick, tick)

What do you do when you have nothing to do? You complete lists, wait till the last minute to finish a food diary for the weight management trainer who is expecting you at 12 (it's 11:30 a.m.), and read through blogs.

Today is the official last day of work. Other than a legal matter that has gotten my bloodpressure up, it's a quiet day of nothingness. A column of sunshine broke through the grey gloom of this unnaturally wet season this morning, making me hope that the day would prove as cheery as a summer's day. But the weather is playing bah humbugs with us, so it's back to sheet metal grey outside, threats of rain.

6 hours to go before freedom. I feel like a school kid waiting for the clock to strike before the start of the summer holidays. Why can't adults get summer holidays, two months off for every ten months of work? You can choose which two months to take off, most might choose the summer, but I'd travel between December and February. If I wanted heat, I'd head down to Australia or New Zealand, maybe South America. If I wanted winter, there's all of the northern hemisphere to choose from.

I resolve not to have any 2006 resolutions. Instead: travel plans! February - Macau and Hong Kong to see friends, a friend's new baby, and to eat good bacalau, and a dimsum breakfast like only Hong Kong can do. May - possibly Montreal, with an option to trip through Boston and Dartmouth, maybe a side trip to California. July - MONGOLIA!!!! I can see it now, roaring hooves, flying arrows, gurgling songs, yak butter.... Roaring hooves! Camels! Yurts!

Two domestic trips lined up: attend Myra's birthday in Zamboanga and then soon after do my second Tubbataha trip. Both in April.

2005 was a year full of friends. We had a new crop of people join the eating group. I finally got friends to start diving, and I moved house. School was both a positive, as I finally took the plunge back into an academic setting. But it hasn't proven to be the program I want to stay with.

Onward ho to 2006 (roaring hoov....)

Monday, December 19, 2005

Simbang Gabi

4 a.m. masses, churches are packed, and the only reason for going is to bring two new-to-Manila folks for something seasonally specific. Luckily both visitors were Catholic and also didn't mind standing for over an hour. We left the church, a little holier (ha!), and went outside to look over the available drink and food. But neither visitor felt in the mood for heavy starch, so all we took was the free salabat.

The church was one I had gone to as a child, rekindling memories of Sunday masses, walking home one January (I was 11, and the family were going to lunch for my brother's birthday. Everyone in one car thought I was in the other vehicle, so they left. I walked home, and they all came streaming back aghast I hadn't just waited in the church (what the heck was I going to do there?). My brother's never quite forgiven me for the ruined birthday lunch.), and sitting through sermons bored out of my mind. The altar is a bit more gilt than I remember, a friend told me they have renovated it recently. All that new rococo doesn't quite fit the stark modern lines of the ceiling. It looks out of place.

Instead of having our early morning repast after mass, we joined a friend's family for breakfast at Dulcinea. I had a filling chicken galantina breakfast, but later in the afternoon, I felt like more breakfast food, so had corned beef with atchara. Of course we had churros con chocolate, what is a visit to Dulcinea without Ch con Ch?

Friday, December 16, 2005

Water up my nose

A friend emailed me saying how he doesn't like snorkelling after he swallowed a mouthful of salt water. Guess he won't be intested in diving either. Don't know how many gulps of seawater I've ingested on dives these past 4 years. What more my dive instructors and dive masters who have to do this for a living!

I thought of his comment after getting some chlorinated water up my nozzle this morning. Early morning swim, felt a bit brisk today. But I did take in too much in one gulp at one point and spluttered to a finish. Gack! Honk! Snort! Thank goodness no one else was in the pool with me, or I'd have felt like some surfacing hippo shaking off the mud and messing around the shallows.

Duty calls. Books need sorting, boxes need to be shelved and I have to make my desk semi-presentable. bore.dom.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

It's all water weight, or pms

Losing weight is hard to do. That should be a song title.

I've been on a 8 week weight management program that incorporates weekly meetings with a trainer focusing on food intake, regular exercise, and one-on-one contact that we all sometimes need to get our butts out the door. After 4 weeks, I've lost less than 2 lbs, gotten sick for close to an entire week, but did feel more motivated about going to the gym, even at the ungodly hour of 6 a.m. The extra challenge here is trying to avoid gaining weight over the holidays, with parties practically every day, if not every meal. One major positive aspect has been reviewing the food intake and feeling mildly shocked at how much chocolates and sweets I was eating. One chocolate here, a couple of cakes there, boy do those things add up. I never thought of myself as a major sweettooth, but may have to revise my assumption. Can't remove it all from the diet, and wouldn't want to, so I'm using my old training tips: behavior modification and harm reduction. Plus the trainer hasn't stopped me from having any sweets, she has suggested reducing it, so it's been easier for me to hold the line. What I'm having a harder time doing is reducing the rice and starch. I love rice, it's such a comfort food. Pasta and bread too! We'd have to eat such dull, spiceless food if there wasn't any rice. No sauces, no drippings, no gravy too. Life is too negative already to remove all the good things in life.

I was at Powerbooks for a quick walk through and found a signed first edition of Peter Robinson's STRANGE AFFAIR in the sales bin, P199.00 only. I'd read another of his books (A cold season? or something like that) some years back. His mysteries revolve around a team of police investigators up in Yorkshire, England. All I know about England, I learned from mysteries. Well, not exactly, lots of PGWodehouse in there too. And Monty Python. Yikes. Ok, so a bulk of what I know about the UK is from fiction, and some writers are better than others about describing the dells and the vales, alongside the seamy underbelly of London or whatever city they plonk their protagonists in. Right, so back to Mr. Robinson. As the book was released in 2005, I do think it's one of the better buys I've made recently, among the number of first editions I've picked up. Am I going to fall into the condition called Gentle Madness by Nicholas Basbane? Pulling together a personal library of hard bound firsts? Nay, I say! I like my frumpy, frowsy soft bounds with rubbed edges and frayed paper. It says that I read my books. To heck with future value. My friend who covers all her books and color coordinates them may say that I'm wasting good money, but as we disagree on many issues related to investment, and as she's into financial planning she's probably right, but I'm not and to heck with all those who keep nagging me to put up my nest egg!!!!!....

So I was very pleased with my purchase, and the book was a decent story told. The primary detective DCS Alan Banks loses a family member to Eastern European slave traders. There are moments of intimate tragedy, intensity that is sometimes lacking in some other writers.

Monday, December 05, 2005

A book critique: Citizen Girl

While waiting for a spinning class yesterday I popped into Fully Booked where a few books were on sale at the front of the store. As I forgot (consciously?) my book bag, I justified my purchase by saying to my stingy self "It's a sale" and got two books - Citizen Girl (E. Maclaughlin and N. Kraus, of Nanny Diaries fame) and Birds Without Wings (Louis de Berenieres' latest). I also picked up the latest Stopover edition as it had a number of articles related to diving, particularly in my favorite dive spot, Anilao.

I finished reading Citizen Girl by midnight, not because it was that compelling, although it was relatively short. If I were to compare it to the other forms of chicklit I've come across, I'd say it had some interesting sidenotes (morality in the face of commercialism, and maintaining one's integrity when dealing with issues affecting women's health and safety). However, I became increasingly annoyed at the endless plot twists, the unnecessary inclusion of the Bovary client and Los Angeles section (the book could have ended 50 pages earlier), then the new company which, I suppose, was the straw that broke Girl's back, but the twist was not very exciting anymore. I just wanted it to end. And so I sped read through the last ten pages.

I've collected all of LdB's books thus far, so I'm looking forward to reading his latest, even if the reviews weren't as good as Corelli's Mandolin. I miss his prose as well as Vikram Seth and Michael Ondaatje. I hope all three authors continue to write, reviewers bedamned.

Starve a cold? Feed a fever?

I am officially in a cold funk. I had a "sipon" (drippy nose) last friday, which disappeared Saturday, only to return full force on Sunday, and now on Monday I am forced to keep blowing, occasionally yawning as my right ear clogs up from the pressure. Urgh. I hate colds, hate being sick. I'd like to be sick if I were in some luxury spa, pampered by attendants feeding me stuff, fanning me, bringing me books, tea, a cookie or so, then off to the massages for a toxin-reducing session. Repeat. But no, I'm here at work, trying to figure out how to send a million emails while my head feels like a clogged drain.

Last night I made the mistake of staying on at the Greenhills Shopping Center after my hour at the gym. I went to Bizu for a late breakfast of eggs benedict (the waitress kept on saying "what? what?" when I said eggs benedict. I had to point it out on the menu before she understood. Good heavens, don't they teach their waitresses how to read the menu?), a large pot of tea, and then succumbed to getting three of the macaroons: chocolate (rating 8 out of 10), vanilla (5 out of 10), and rose (for color - a 9, taste a 7.5). I will definitely get more. After my meal, I looked for a cab, and kept looking. After one turn around the entire mall, with a few stops at possible taxi lines, I gave up and called in a taxi service, extra cost bedamned. If I go back, I'm going to have to make sure to bring my sneakers so I can just walk back. The aggravation would kill me if I let it. As it is my cold may be the result of my having inhaled too many fumes looking for a taxi.

Hooray! I've just found my stash of Vicks Vaporub. There's nothing like a dab of VV to get my sinuses flowing. I feel less stuffed up already.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Friday, bloody Friday

Wow, a second post in two days, that's a record for me. But I find myself with time on my hands (even though I have a lot of emailing to do) and a runny nose, good enough reasons to blog.
I got a phone call/Skype yesterday from friends in Moscow. Let me clarify that, a chinese guy, a lebanese girl, a bolivian fellow, and an american chick, hosted by a belarussian called me from Moscow. I like that. The corners of the world together in one spot. So I was meant to be with them, but one thing or another kept me from going. We planned to Skype and it worked. So I had this lovely call session from them and missed them a lot. Frank was just being his normal hyper self and kept interrupting (grr Frank, let a girl get a word edgewise), even when we had a sidenote talk about books on my reading shelf.
Last night, I accompanied Alen to the cocktail reception of the condominium developers with whom he's invested. So-so food, and we made fun of the poor lady doing the singing. She had a nice voice, but no charisma, no style. The organizers were one step up from those time-share salespeople I had the misfortune to deal with some years back. Ah well, made me rethink any plans of buying an apartment.
The apartments that I do want, but can't buy, although renting is a possibility are in Malate. Lovely spaces, with big windows and so much potential. Drool, drool, drool. sigh.
Right, can't get ahold of the mattress buyer that cousin C told me about, so I'm going to have to bite the bullet and get the mattress from SM. My back can't take anymore of the futon.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

12 o'clock, time to get up

My boss has this annoying alarm clock that goes off a few minutes before noon, and while it probably wouldn't matter if she'd just turn the bloody thing off, she lets it run through for a minute. Meaning that people who are irritated by the sound have to smile and pretend it's not a problem. I am irritated by it, and I have to smile through it, while dreaming of taking a hammer to the pesky clock.

One of the books I'm midway through (along with 20 other books I've bought over the last few months and due to my move have been buried under all the other books I bought over the years, some I am re-reading again. Whew long run-on sentence.) is HOW TO BE IDLE, a very nice book about being lazy. Although the author does come up with some valid reasons not to be part of the mindless wheel of commerce, like some vapid rabbit, or white mouse, or maybe a guinea pig. All of the latter are not part of my "pet of the year" choices either. The first chapter of HOW TO is all about the alarm clock and how it's bad for our health. That being a slave to the clock is just a precursor to a heart attack. Yeah, totally agree! That's why it takes two alarms to get me up in the morning. Yoiks!

I signed up for an 8-week weight management program. Each Tuesday I meet with the trainer and go over my food intake, how much gym time I've put in, and my overall sense of wellbeing. One week into it and I'm sooooo craving bad foods. This is the first formal program where I have to monitor my food and stuff. The few weeks I met with a nutritionist don't count, nor the few months when I actively tried to do a regiment of weight training along with cardiovascular exercise. I'm even getting body fat (eeks) readings and measurements. Makes me grouchy just thinking about it. But persevere! Only 6 weeks and 4 days left. Plus I want to push my boundaries and show myself that I can get past my plateau. I've been at the same weight since college for pete's sake! My college clothes still fit me, which is a good thing since I'm not a big shop-a-holic. I just fix the holes that wear away into the general fabric. No really, I'm not that much of boston brahmin to hold onto college sweats for 10 years. But my clothes size has.not.changed. And that's a bad thing. So revving up my metabolism for 8 weeks will be a start. Then I'll take on my inner demons and actually get to do a marathon next year. I put it on this blog earlier, and I will see it through. And then I'll learn how to ride a bike without killing myself. Gosh. Maybe even get back behind the wheel of a car and drive around Manila without killing anyone or having a stroke from wanting to atomize all the jeepney drivers.

Now, off to my salad lunch. Where is that hammer?

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Cashews and Durian chips

I had to stop by Market!Market and found that there's a whole new wing I hadn't seen before. There are signs for a new Korean market, and potted plants are on sale. A whole row of food carts are also up selling packaged chichiriya (snacks and other miscellaneous food products), sausages, peeled chestnuts, and assorted Asian edibles. One of the food carts sells Thai munchies, under the brand Aloi. What that means is a mystery to me, I should probably ask my Thai friends if that word means anything. Aloi has several outlets in different malls, usually near the movie theaters for those of us who don't think popcorn is the end all and be all of movie snacks. I'm particularly addicted to the durian chips (doesn't have the pungency of fresh durian, and may seemingly be healthier than potato chips...not) and their roasted bangkok cashews.

Nuts are great snacks. I'm a long time fan of boiled peanuts, roasted almonds (ooh, the ones in the States that are soy flavored are wonderful), macadamias, and nuts in chocolate are great. Cashews can be difficult to get, good ones, not the burnt to a mealy crisp or somewhat rancid tasting. So I've been happy with the quality, size and flavor of the Aloi cashews. The few times I buy them, they taste fresh, are of uniform size and color, and aren't heavily salted.

Aloi sells their nuts, candies and other items by the 100g, and they're not the cheapest, but at least I don't have too many surprises eating their stuff.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Thy name is procrastination

I have 5 major, urgent, must-do things to complete this week. They were all due last week or earlier. One includes paying a rather important bill. Hi, I'm a procrastinator.
It's been my weakest link since childhood, the ability to push the limits of my deadlines and pay by dates. Is it a vice? Or is there some latent underlying problem that creates this endless lateness? I hate it, I know it, I can do something about it, but it's there.
I even procrastinate writing in this blog, but at least it's not an urgent matter. The bills however, are another matter altogether.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Tuesdays, hot sweltering Tuesdays

What odes are there to Tuesdays? What songs? Mondays, Fridays and general weekends seem to have the corner on songs and emotions. The rest of the week don't qualify. Does anyone have a paean to Tuesdays?

It's also been much too hot lately, where are our typhoons? Minus the rain, typhoons are lovely, the winds sweep out all the smog and lowers the temperatures for a couple of days. Plus think of all the delightfully middle-class memories we have of typhoons - no class, no work, eating, playing cards, sleeping. For sheer desperation, pulling out the woolies that we only get to use in Baguio to warm up (mind you, putting the aircon on while there's a typhoon makes for that perfect San Francisco chill).

I have organized my books, and put them on a spreadsheet. From my struggles, I realized that I have books that go back, way back, to early adulthood, some to childhood. I have lost so much though, my Agatha Christie Penguin editions, my Jane Eyre, and where the heck is my complete Sherlock Holmes? Not to mention all the romantic trash I bought at the old Army and Navy Club on my weekly allowance.

From the list, I find that I have 40 PG Wodehouse, a stack of female Anglo-mystery writers (blame dame christie), and a column of fantasy (pratchett, gaiman, mckinley). I reminisced over my All Female Classics period, reminded of that year when I went through one female writer a week (Wharton, Eliot, Austen, the other Bronte's, Chopin, Cather) until I nearly ran out of writers and started picking up those I didn't like, mostly preachy books or plain depressing Victorian authors.

I found a new copy, recently re-published copy of The Art of Eating by MFK Fisher. I waffled over getting the copy, and spent a day deciding whether or not to get it, but as I also decided to swallow my lumps and buy the complete Calvin and Hobbes, I figured, why not go crazy and get both, plus a few more books in the long run. The bill was enough for me to get a free discount card at Fully Booked. I don't want to see my credit card bill!

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Ode to shopping: A ladder, a bench, and thou

Night markets - Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Hong Kong. Where are Manila's night markets? Yes, we tout long night drinking spots and 24 hour McDonald delivery, but where can shoppers go at 11 p.m. to buy stuff in the middle of summer? I'd do more shopping if it were at night, it's cooler and interesting food finds are always more, well, interesting, late at night after finding a eureka tidbit.
At a recent embassy bazaar, I chose a long wooden bench and a Igorot/mountain province inspired ladder, paid for it and told the vendor I'd pick it up after two weeks. After a couple of days trying to contact the vendor with thoughts having been cheated of my money, the agreement was that I'd pick up my buys at their new outlets in Tiendesitas. A friend had emailed me about it, so I was ready to check out the new shopping haven in the city.
Tiendesitas is between Ortigas Avenue and J. Vargas Avenue, right behind Ortigas Center. I had seen it being built on the occasional venture out on C5, but paid it no mind. I'm too Makati-centric, and find it more convenient to do all my shopping here. But now that I live in New Manila, I've started exploring Cubao and now Ortigas.
What struck me going around Tiendesitas is the sheer gimmickry of the place, think theme shopping. Another friend said that it was built along the lines of Chatuchak in Bangkok, but I don't think this is anywhere near the scale of Chatuchak. I also hope they learn from the problems of their Bangkok brother since that market gives me a headache after an hour of wandering. Sizewise, Tiendesitas is only third of what you'd find in Chatuchak; the maze effect is missing, and perhaps when more vendors pack it in, there will be more of that joie de vivre, hustle and bustle, and pure sense of commerce. What Tiendesitas does bring to mind is a cleaner, more open Greenhills Shopping Center/Virra Mall layout. And when I spoke to a vendor, she told me that they are originally based in GSC, but find the business in the new location better (perhaps for the novelty than for anything else. Well, and the free parking).
Parking is, as I mentioned, free, but limited. If it turns into a Greenhills franchise, the space they have for parking will easily run out. It's not very accessible to public transport, perhaps to limit hoi polloi. One aspect I forgot to check out was the public bathrooms. For now, the green space is pleasant, and at 8:30 p.m., the breeze made it pleasant to stay out and wander around the open stores.
I picked up my bench, ladder, and was suckered into picking up two wooden trays. A 50% discount is too much for me to pass up, I have to admit to a weakness when the discount is larger than 30%. That makes the section of my brain controlled by primeval urges go "Buy! Buy! Buy!" I also couldn't resist a pomelo shake at one of the fruit vendors; my worry that it would be a saccharinely sweet concoction was all for naught, and trying to get all the pomelo bits was a nice alternative to canned juices. Give me pulp or give me a bargain.
My new finds are positioned (they fit) in their new home, giving some definition to my room. Now all I need is to find the space for the bookshelves I ordered.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Sharks! and Dylan Thomas

I'm off to Malapascua to visit the sharks, threshers, scientific name unknown to me, but perhaps I'll wiki it soon.
Please let the sun come out! Diving on cold, grey days is depressing.
I visited Torn and Frayed, read out loud the post on Dylan Thomas, "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night" one of those poems which always sounds different when you read it aloud for yourself. And a poem I'd like read at my memorial service.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Childhood Food Memories Meme

Yikes, my first meme. Tagged by Stef of Stefoodie, and I didn't know until I read her post. Um thanks, I think. :)

Generally, childhood memories that come to mind are avoiding some horrible looking frogs on a cement ledge in the back of the school and getting all scratched up for my efforts, the many times I had to have minor knee surgery by my mom (she'd remove all the little stones and stuff I'd get when I would skin my knees), reading in bed which my mom said was bad for my eyes, but I did it anyway. And the cats, my never ending line of pusakals (stray cats). From the one mama cat that bit my cheek when I was 6 (and I imagined for weeks that I had a big gaping hole in my cheek), to my favorite tabby imaginatively named Orange who used to streak round my tiny room, to settle late at night on my face or near my neck. Poor thing died without me around as I was in college by then. Of course thinking of him prods my guilty conscience as I've just moved to a new place and I have had to leave my newest feline companion with my parents until 2007 (my current housemates are allergic to pets). Ok, enough with the somewhat negative and morbid nostalgic streak.

Food had a share of the better memories, particularly around the holiday seasons and birthdays. Birthdays for instance, always began with a bowl of misua (very thin egg noodles), with the meat and mushroom mixture in a separate bowl and the rich chicken broth in another. Then the condiments of fried garlic, thinly sliced green onions, peanuts and a boiled egg, all spread out around the table. The egg had to be colored red the night before for that extra touch of chinese authenticity. I don't know if it's true, but my parents would say that the misua represented long life. So we had to eat it on our birthdays or be banished from the family forever (maniacal laughter here). Erm, no that last bit is not true, but we would get into major doodoo if the egg was not red or if we tried to dash out of the house without eating the requisite bowl. Mind you, I loved misua and loved mixing the noodles and meat and broth, then add enough of the garnishings to feed a village. But some birthdays were on weekdays and school days which meant getting up at an ungodly hour just to gulp down the food.

Cake - where would birthdays be without cake? Hizon's in Manila was where we always got our chocolate cakes and it is always the arbiter for a classic chocolate cake. It was a moist, chocolatey cake, with enough of the dark chocolate icing to lick off later. Nowadays, we are inundated by great chocolate cakes all over the place, but no other bakeshop will have a place in my heart as Hizon's.

Speaking of cake, I remember that the best Easter cake we ever had was the humongous ice cream cakes Magnolia used to make. One Easter, after the mom-mandated fasting, no ice cream and no lusting after ice cream for three whole days, my dad brought in a big box and we beheld (or is it still behold?) this castle of a cake, pink and yellow, and just at the point of melting in the heat. Didn't take much for us to cut the cake and dig in. Don't think that cake had a chance to melt. And I don't know if Magnolia still makes ice cream cakes. The ones at Haagen Dazs are just way too pricey; would rather get a pint instead.

Sometime in my later childhood years, when I was allowed to get close to the knives and fires of the gas stove, it became a regular part of the repertoire to do homemade barbecue, and for some weird reason, we all wanted chicken barbecue. So I would take it upon myself to slave over the hot coals, basting the bbq-ed legs and wings and breasts for the parties. They were good and spicy but honestly, I don't know why I did it.

If we have to have a balance of the good and bad, I hereby admit that I abhor and still avoid like the plague ampalaya (bitter melon). I don't care if it is the miracle cure for the ages, I will never like the taste and it doesn't help that I have memories of my mom forcing me to eat it. Ditto on chicken liver sauteed in oyster sauce in chinese restaurants.

But back to the good memories, and as I wrote the last sentence, I can't post this without reminiscing over the Sunday meals after mass, when we'd head out to Ongpin and either eat at the original Smart Panciteria (oyster cake, steamed fish, those darn chicken livers, beef with kailan, and other seafood, plus a variety of soups and fried rice), or a dinky dive that served the best oyster cake and oyster soups, plus anywhere my dad felt like eating in the maze of Chinatown. I still get lost when I'm in the area, but the smells bring me back to the late 70's and early '80's, walking behind my dad, with my mom, sister and brother, dodging horse puckies on the road.

There are too many other memories flooding back right now (these memes are addictive), and if I find time to put them back onto blog paper, I'll catch up with my green mango/bagoong addiction, pan de sals with a myriad of fillings at the school cafeteria, and those never ending fruitcakes that took up space in the refrigerators.

I may have to do another blog soon as I can't think of who to tag. Give me a day or two.

Friday, October 07, 2005

What does it mean to me?

As a blog neophyte, I've been surfing blogland for a year, picking up insights on how other people structure their blogs, use the tools, write, and even make money through them. This blog isn't intended for anything serious, nor can I find one area to focus on. It's more a daily journal that I can post something I want to write about, although I find it hard to settle on any one topic even on the days I have an idea in mind. Over the next few months, I'll probably focus on a few things: diving, my new place, books, my struggle with languages (french and chinese), and maybe add a few photos of food when I figure out the intricacies of my camera. When I get to travel and if I remember to bring my camera, I'll put up some thoughts of the day or something relatively un-sublime.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Bound bookstore

I love books. I spend as much time reading as I do sleeping. Maybe more. But as a self-pronounced bookworm, the offshoot is where do I keep my books? Storage, maintenance, and cataloguing the collection takes time. I'm also a self-pronounced procrastinator, so I rarely spend enough time taking care of my collection, with the exceptional moments I see a big spider and I smush it with two books I know I don't really care for. Then I go through a cleaning frenzy to make sure there aren't any more spiders lurking between the covers and pages.

At one point last year, I went through a "minimalist" phase and got rid of a lot of old clothes, shoes, and books. Garage sales and donations absorbed more than 100 books, but I still had piles and piles to dispose of. Early this year, a used bookstore in Quezon City opened up, and now I have a place to send my displaced books. Bound is located on a side street off Tomas Morato; the easiest way to find it is to keep an eye out for Grappa's. I've consigned over P6000 worth of books with them, and I've been happy with the knowledge that someone is getting a chance to read the books I no longer want.

The first time I dropped off a "shipment" with Bound, I wandered around the area and crossed the street to a neighborhood bookstore. Inside, I found several of the titles I had just given up, all new copies, wrapped in plastic, and priced at retail value, whereas my castoffs were discounted by as much as 80%. Since then, I've continued to bring more sets of books over to Bound, perusing the stacks of books still for sale and looking at what people are seeking in the little list they have for orders or special requests.

Last night, I saw two books I have had my eye on at National and Powerbooks available at Bound. But as I'm on an austerity period (no shopping for books, except when absolutely bored with doing nothing while waiting for something to happen), I have passed on buying and am staying on the other side, the selling. Moving is not only tedious and stressful, it's expensive. I also have to prepare for a short dive trip out to Malapascua at the end of the month. All that money going out and I'm not doing anything to hold back the fiscal tide.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Missing islands

Thinking of Christmas travel, surrounded by the jingles in the mall, my friends and I imagine ourselves outside the hustle and bustle of Manila. We begin planning out where to go, and when, how to meet up after doing our family chores.
We hit upon Siargao, beaches, diving, surfing, and some nature tripping galore. Yesterday, I take the plan a step further by going to PAL's ticketing office in Makati. After some discussion on an upcoming trip to Cebu, I ask the helpful information desk rep what would be the fastest way to get to Siargao. Her reply:
"Where is that?"

After I tell her it's located in Mindanao, near Surigao, she says: "I don't know where that is."

The situation doesn't truly hit me until I turn away from her counter to stumble into the Mabuhay Miles waiting room, more in a daze and not having eaten breakfast that morning. She doesn't know? She works for PAL, a primary agent in the tourism infrastructure in this country, and she doesn't know where an up and coming tourist destination is. Couldn't she have said, "I will check it out for you" or "let me find someone who can help you with the routes" or something a little more practical.

I vent some of my pissed-off-at-the-state-of-affairs with the Mabuhay Miles person, who kindly gives me the complaint letter form plus the name of the General Manager (although that person will more likely hear from me about how the MM customer service phone number is perpetually busy, the emails I've sent are never answered, and I waited two hours yesterday to speak to the agent. Not eating breakfast is a bad thing for my temper. All the minor irritants get blown up into a massive storm-in-a-teacup.).

Yesterday afternoon I googled Siargao travel websites and found a few options for the upcoming trip, including bypassing PAL altogether. Asian Spirit flies to Surigao then a bus ride and ferry to Siargao. Or I could fly to Cebu and do a boat trip over.

Of course if my pocketbook begins to unravel by November, I'll be staying in the city, close the doors, turn off the lights and do a dvd marathon for the week between Christmas and New Years.

Friday, September 30, 2005

Where's Scotty when you need him?

Moving is tedious business. I've never done a move in Manila, but have had my share of best forgotten house/apartment moves in my college years and in Hong Kong. One memory comes to mind, helping a friend move from one apt to another from Hong Kong Island to Lamma; trying to figure out how to lift her mattress up the hill. Our beers were well deserved after that mess. Now that I think about it, the place she moved to was where she had an infestation of bats in the aircondition unit. Not that our travails were a cause or effect kind of thing.

I am now facing moving out of my parents home, something I've had planned for 8 years. Long time to be looking for a place to call my own, or at least to rent for myself, but it finally happened. I hope that the new pad will be a long-term venture, as I don't fancy looking again. Rentals in Manila are plain exorbitant and usually depressing. Too small, too smelly, too, too.

Last weekend, I got tired of imagining my things packed and started hauling the boxes and banigs that I would bring over. Cleaned out some books, packed the ones I didn't want into two bags to bring to Bound for consignment, and swept up some of the pieces that would follow me northward. As per my usual procrastination, I found myself reading some of the books instead of just dusting them off for the move. But I did manage to seperate the books I've read from one bookcase into three boxes, and one box of unread books into the other. I calculate I still have 10 to 15 boxes of books left to clean and pack.

Two of the books I decide to read betwixt moves is Nathaniel's Nutmeg, and One Hundred Years of Solitude. The former is a non-fiction narrative of how nutmeg changed the world, while everyone seems to have the latter in their best books I've ever read list.

I find Nutmeg rather charming, with passages on the long forgotten explorers, colonizers, adventurers from Elizabethan (the First) England, and their rivals, the Dutch. One of the most amusing yet enlightening bits tell of how the explorers and merchants kept on searching for a Northeast passage, through the Arctic and across Scandinavia/Russia, as a means to get to the Spice Islands faster. To the modern mind, it may seem remarkable that they could conceive that there was a speedier route cutting North, to the islands lying not far from Papau New Guinea and Australia. But without their sacrifice in lives, and the undeniable desire to keep finding new ways of getting to their destination (the bottom line is they wanted to get to the goods faster than their competitors, make money. Is that where the saying money makes the world go round comes from? Hmmm), we wouldn't have the global connection we do now. The global economy was already in full swing in those days, what with merchants bringing the best of the East to the buyers in the West. Eventually, that has come full circle, or at least to a point of McDonaldization (sic) of most of the international economy.

I have a few weeks left to move out and be on my own. I'm looking forward to the peace that will entail. Though I'm not looking forward to not having a maid to clean my room everyday and the little luxuries that come with staying with the parents. When I look at all I still have to clean and pack, I wish the Star Trek beam was not merely in our imaginations. I'd like to stick all the boxes in the middle of my room, press a few coordinates and presto, they'd be in the new place without my having to heft them over. Maybe with a few adjustments, the beam would magically hang up the clothes, sort out the books, and have a fresh cut flower all ready for when I walk through the door...

Sigh, back to the grind.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

forgotten subject

I realized that the previous posts about AC books was also entitled "... and internet radio", but I had nothing on internet radio.

I love to listen to music while I'm working. I've read that it's not a good idea as it is a distraction, but I'd rather have a rush of music than the sound of the airconditioner. At times, I plug on the radio, and twiddle to my local radio station, usually 103.5 fm for alternative pop. But radio can be annoying with the incessant commercials and the silly games they make people do so they can be one of over 200 people that might win a raffle to another game show or other promo.

Sidenote: eegads, it's raining again!!!

Some years back, I found that online radio stations were a good alternative to the regular radio stuff, not much commercial buttinskis touting haircare or saving the environment (I donate to environmental causes, but i don't need the constant reminders of the degradation we are surrounded with). However, I didn't have dsl until last year so I couldn't benefit from the regular listening pleasure of long playing songs. There's nothing more exasperating than singing along with Oklahoma, when the song stops at Okl---- argh.

Yahoo messenger just upgraded and now offers their own selection of radio stations; they tend to be spotted with a couple of ads from ABC shows like premieres of Desperate Housewives, and some Bud light commercials. I'd rather go with Accuradio, where I can wallow in hours of big band, broadway shows, alternative rock, or classics at any time. Right now, I have it on the Swinging Pop standards, listening as I type this to some tap dancer's rhythmic feet while the melody to Smile, Darn Ya, Smile plays on the back ground. It's Sammy Davis Jr. Now it's Lena Horne singing something. I can imagine her big grin while she sings.

There does seem to be enough for everyone out there, so long as you have dependable internet service and a computer to play it on.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

books and internet radio

I was at the Powerbooks store in Robinsons Manila yesterday and found two Agatha Christie books I haven't read before. AC was my Nancy Drew. I was a semi-precocious child who wanted to be seen as a mature reader, so instead of collecting Nancy Drew books, I gobbed onto my sister's collection of AC. She liked Tommy and Tuppence, but Hercule Poirot of the moustache, little grey cells and eggshaped head was my kind of detective. The first AC I ever read was Death on the Nile. Not a typical AC mystery, as it was set in ancient Egypt (probably written during the time she was still married to the archeologist). I then took the Poirot arc backward, reading Curtain before The Mysterious Affairs at Styles. And I jumped around a lot, reading some of the Ms. Marple stories alongside Parker Pyne and the non-detective stories, before heading back to the safe harbors of Poirot.

Dame Christie is probably the reason I love mysteries, specifically female British mystery writers. From her I took up Ngaio Marsh (ok, technically NM is a Kiwi), Dorothy Sayers, PD James, their contemporaries like Minette Walters.

The two books I picked up were Murder is Easy (first published as Easy to Kill) and Taken at the Flood. The latter is a Poirot mystery and definitely one I had never read before.

Murder is Easy is very reminiscent of another story AC wrote, might have been one of her first drafts before she rewrote it for one of her major detectives. I will have to go through the other books to find the plot likeness.

Taken is a tad different, there's more intrigue and in a way, the deaths are a sub-plot to the characters. Also, you get a sense of the despair that cut into the upper middle class lifestyle after WW2. Taxation and shortages made life harder for those who had small pensions. I could feel how tempting it was for the Cloades to get rid of Rosaleen; was the fact that the real murderer not one of them a bit of classism on AC's part?

The only AC books that were downright awful were adaptations of her plays written by some fellow who's name is suppressed deep in some "awful book" memory. Terrible in that the "writer" just rewrote the script into prose, without developing the story or character; uncharacteristic of Christie. Hopefully the man has been removed from his job and never allowed to come close to a book deal again.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Return to market

I spent a few hours roaming Market!Market! It's been sometime since I went there, and the first time I've had to really go around the shops to see if there's anything that makes the mall worth going back to. Since I'm into books and food, I have to admit there's not much in the place for a book lover. The two book outlets aren't that exciting, and I didn't find anything that made me go ooh! gotta have that book.

On the food side, I was immediately surprised that China Star was closed so soon after it opened last year. I know the food business is harsh but we were there late last year and it seemed to be doing well. Considering the other food options inside the mall and outside by the fresh fruits, vegetables and grillery (sic), I wonder what made the management decide to close up shop.

I ended up getting a fresh lumpia at Mann Hann, buying mangosteen and a marang from the fruit stands. Also at Mann Hann, I ordered an oyster cake to take home to the folks. Is it the -ber months that make up oyster season or is it not safe to eat them during this time of the year? I can't remember. But I haven't had an oyster cake in sometime so it's always a treat to have it. Reminds me of my childhood when we'd go to Chinatown after Sunday mass and one of our favorite dives was a place we named "oyster place" - yeah, well we didn't have a lot of imagination for places, pragmatic foodies that we were - where they'd have a bowl of tiny oysters ready to be cooked up into the best oyster cakes and oyster stews in town. When I lived in China, the wet markets would have special times of the year when the vendors would sell plastic buckets of young oysters, freshly shucked. I never had the guts to buy them and make my own oyster cake. But soon, I'll have my own kitchen to play with and I'll be experimenting on a lot of food that I've wanted to make!!! (insert mad scientist laughter here)

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Chicharon days

I went to the market to browse, and bought a freshly cut hydrangea for my new vase, some pre-packed chinese food, and chicharon (2 bags!). Also dropped by the juice stand for a large order of Rainy Day Juice (papaya-watermelon-and two other fruits), and then my last stop was the indian food stall to get some samosas.

All of this was meant for the office, to have something to eat for lunch while at work. But I was tempted by the sun, so sorely missed this last week, found an empty bench where I drank up my juice, chomped on the samosas and then tore open one bag of chicharon. Luckily I stopped myself from eating the entire bag, but made a definite dent.

I remember my first samosa, it was in the fourth grade and a Pakistani classmate brought in her mom's cooking for one of our never ending food or bake sales. I don't know if it was for an South Asian food fest, but we all brought something to share with the rest of the folks who wanted non-canteen food, and Maryam brought a tray filled with these deep fried dumplings. She warned me they were spicy, and luckily I was never a picky eater, so I bit into it and was hooked. I've always thought of samosas as my first edible cross-cultural experience. How can you make enemies when you savor another culture's food?

As for chicharon, my favorite is still the Lapid's chicharon, when it's fresh and hot. The ones I bought today weren't bad, but nothing spectacular. I was hoping for more laman, instead the bits were mostly skin.

At lunch yesterday, the restaurant had an item with chicken chicharon on rice. That reminded me of the days in school when someone used to sell bags of chicken chicharon in the canteen. I loved those, salty and crunchy. Not too big like pork chicharon bits and had a really savory taste that pork chicharon doesn't always have. Didn't need to dip it into vinegar or add anything as it was redolent of fat and salt.

As for the packed chinese food, it was ho-hum. There was a definite MSG taste to the sauces, and a lack of spice. Don't think I'll be buying from that vendor any more.

Staring at the bag of supersize chocolate covered malt balls, I think it's no contest... there goes one! and soon the rest!

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Achy throats and sicky days

How I need to take a day off. I feel like my days have been stuffed with work and I can't commit to more work before I get some time off. My throat feels like a scratchy towel is down my larynx. I also have a late sleep time issue these days, can't get to sleep before midnight, although I know that I'll be able to change that once I stop watching tv until midnight. I can see a weekend of early evenings.

I found the townhouse last week after an hour and a half on the public transport system, and waiting for A to pick me up at the corner store (I turned left when I should have turned right). The place looks like it's in good shape, repainted, retiled, and much bigger than I remembered. I may be able to put my furniture in there after all. I've also been able to get a stove and some shelves for books. Once the place looks ready to be cleaned, I'll borrow the maid to do a sweep and a polish all over, then start moving in items over a couple of weekends. I want to be in by the first week of October.

I'm debating over whether or not to go on LOA at school. I don't think I can afford to be in class this semester. I also have to think about whether this program is what I want to do. Perseverance, I know, is the key to successfully completing the program, not being burdened by failing the classes.

I think the book How to be Idle is making me yearn to go on a sicky. Love that term. I'm sicky today.

Hopefully traffic won't be so bad tonight and I'll be able to pick up my adidas bag from bound. I'll lug another load of books over Sunday.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

the blues

When guests come to town, my adrenaline rush is pretty high. I've been working towards their visit, planning where they'll go, what they'll see, who they'll meet, and arranging the logistics to keep their day moving. Since the guests yesterday were good acquaintances (not yet at the level of friends), and their good word would help or hinder future activities, I had to make sure that they were kept busy and productive.

A lot of their time was spent going from school to school. I didn't try to overload their schedule, since I wanted them time to meet with students and the counselors, plus enough breaks in between for traffic and any timing problems that may occur in a day. Luckily, the biggest delay happened early on in the day, when C went to Reedley from Manila, after she dropped J and me off at St. Scholastica's. When we met up with her at Reedley, they still had a good hour to get to ISManila.

School visits are always a big question mark from the time I set them up to the time the presentations start. I run the gamut of hope, disappointment or gratitude, irritation and finally release when I prepare for them. I'd rather wait until the school just says "please come over to talk to the students" rather than call them or fax to find out if they have time to meet with international guests.

Maybe I just hate to be told No you can't come over. That always means setting up more appointments to hedge against the ones that cancel at the last minute.

But a good visit can be worth a lot of goodwill and future support, so I keep pressing on, being thankful for the little blessings, and never without a backup plan.

J and C sent over a very nice bouquet to thank me for the work yesterday. It sits in the library, wafting a gentle but persistent fragrance throughout the room. Makes me think of going to Dangwa tonight for flower shopping.

On another note, I will get to see the new townhouse later tonight. I'll take the MRT from Makati and test the timing on public transportation. And of course if I can find the place. I was last there in January, so I'll have to see if I can remember how to get there.

I am toooooo tired to think or work today. I sent off one set of letters and have half-heartedly answered emails from students and parents. What I need is a day of sleep, and I may get some sleep time on Saturday morning before I go register for class.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Full, satiated and on the burst with all the wurst

One full day here in this short visit to Munich and beyond. We took to the road and visited a number of places in the Bavarian region, so today should be called Bavarian Road Trip. It was my first long drive on the Autobahn and we hit 220 to 230, especially on the way home. There´s something thrilling beyond words about a fast ride on smooth roads, knowing it´s safe, but feeling the power of the drive. Why build cars that can go fast if you can´t find the time or the place to take it out and maximize its potential?

Food in Bavaria tends to be characterized by words like heavy, fried, meaty, and comfort food. I´d have to agree, especially tonight as I am writing this while waiting for my stomach to digest all that we ate today. Once I get to a spot where I can load my photos online, I´ll share some of the feast we had tonight, at the Benedictine Abbey Beer Garden. Truly a table load of calories.

We also took the time to enjoy the beauty of the surrounding countryside: the castles like Neuschwanstein (also known as the inspiration for Walt Disney´s Cinderella Castle) and Linderhof, the beautifully ornate baroque church in Wies, dipping our feet into the ubercold waters of the Plansee, and the pastoral hillsides of Bavaria in general. It was so picture-postcard like most of the day, the sun shown down on us and it kept that way all throughout. Long walks and climbs were more pleasurable than penance in these conditions. My only regret is that we didn´t have our swimsuits, a cold and quick swim in the lake would have been more fun than wading up to our shins.

Tomorrow will be a relaxed day, walking through the park, studying for exams next week, and enjoying the city with the other visitors. I´ll do one more museum and maybe a city tour before I leave Sunday. And of course, the wedding of S and J will be the highlight of this visit. Everything´s been so good so far that I can´t help but look forward to that.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

In 5 hours I'm off. Flying! I love flying, I like the feeling of going somewhere far, far away, seeing new places, eating new food, smelling new aromas, waking up to a new sound of daylight. Ok, I like the travelling part, and I'm not a frightened flyer. I don't like the waiting to get on the plane and the length of flights. And... I don't like returning after a trip. It's such a letdown and the fantasy of travel dissipates after coming home to find dirty laundry, dust, and no food in the refrigerator.
My biggest fear on this trip is running out of money. I'm on the tiniest budget ever, and I do worry that I won't be able to see anything on such a limited cashflow.
But having a minimalist budget will make me more creative and hopefully, more in tune with what's going on. Instead of zipping to the next event and next sight, I'll take things slow and savour the details. I'll buy the fruit in season, taste those for a new palate. I'll look for free or inexpensive day trips and learn as much about it instead of skimming over the stories.
I will write, read, study, and when I come home, know that I spent time with friends who mean a great deal, but who I don't see very often. That will be my gift to myself this trip. If only time would speed up just a bit so I could get going, then slow down when I'm there. 8 days is so short for a new country and city.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

6:20 at the office, avoiding the inevitable

I'm avoiding the pile. It's on the desk, standing tall, looking grim. I don't have to look far to see it, but I'd rather look at my monitor, surf through food blogs (I just found one that reviewed one of my favorite restaurants in NYC, Babbo's. The picture taken looked just like where my friend and I sat last year; plus the blogger also got a 10:30 pm. reservation.) and not do a peekytoe bit of work. Peekytoe's a kind of crab, nice sound to it, ja?
Ja's the only german I know, other than Ich sprechen nich deutsche, and a few mumbled things like kiese and schinken. Bier, and wasser or is it waser? Oh, and kuh (cow). Going to Munchen in a few days and I know I'll be so like my orange fish if I were to pull him out of his algae ridden glass home on top of my desk.
So back it is to the pile. Eegads, it looks like it's growing. But it's not, it's just a pile of paper, it needs to be read, understood, perused, analysed and eventually stored away for some other sap to read. I have until tomorrow night to read them all and yet I'm so not excited about doing so. I'd rather find more food blogs, like the one who ate at 5 different pizza places in one day, and a month later did a dessert tour. If I were to do something like that, I'd start with different kinds of wraps: burritos, lumpias, sushi, vietnamese spring rolls and the amoy lumpia kinds, cannolli, peking duck, and oh who knows how many kinds out there. Then I'd do a taste test of chocolate chip ice creams, followed by chocolate chip cookies. Then as many kinds of fried rice from different establishments. A selection of pasta from my favorite italian restuarants.
Just the idea makes me hungry. Where oh where is my delivery order?!

Saturday, May 21, 2005

First day in blogland

Testing the waters of blogging, finally joining the growing wave of online publishing and public scrutiny.

Pike Market Peonies

Pike Market Peonies