Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Weekend musings

Friday night, post-family dinner in an overpacked chinese resto in greenhills, I met up with three total strangers to play poker. I've become a semi-fan of watching poker on tv. After thinking what a waste of time and it's so not a sport so why are they showing it on a sports channel, I've started to see the light of day. When the shows on that cable channel pop up while I'm huffing and puffing away on the treadmill or elliptical machine, I stay on it, and usually find myself 800 calories lighter (1.5 hours of watching tv does help burn the fat!). I don't get all the details yet (some of the flops and combinations or the high card still confuse me), but trying to figure out how people bet and whether or not they'll be put off by bluffers is far more interesting than watching stupid sitcoms.
I found my fellow poker buddies online. M posted on a bulletin board, and by chance I saw it, and offered myself up to a game. We played late into the night; two of the players were far more expert than the other two (I'm in the latter half). By night's end I had won a tidy sum, mostly from getting decent cards, and a few good bluffs. Still have to practice checking and betting though.
Saturday, long and hot day walking around Chinatown, trying to listen to Streetwalker Ivan's tour insights. I think I need to do the tour a few more times so that I can memorize where the food stops are. My favorites are still the authentic Northern Chinese dumplings, and I enjoyed the two airconditioned restaurants for sheer comfort. I'll have to go back to that stall that sold cold Taiwanese noodles and try to find that crispy baozi stall again too. And our last stop to buy fresh amoy lumpia was a refreshing end to the eating tour. Anyone who wants a culinary trek around our town's Chinese enclave, check out Ivan's Binondo tour.
Sunday, too tired and lazy to get out. I had a full day planned: CCP open house to catch the Bayanihan and Madrigals, then a short volunteer stint for PAWS at the Chinese New Year Dog show over at Eastwood. Instead, I wore my jammies, robe and watched cable and a couple of DVDs. Bah, one less day to do nothing.
Monday, it nearly turned into another Sunday, but was saved by my impromptu bathroom cleaning stint. Then caught the SAG awards before heading out to buy supplies. Of course instead of just stocking up on necessities, I ended up picking up some non-essentials (distinctly unhealthy non-essentials; the only bit that I chose not to buy was ice cream as it would have been a puddly mess by the time I finally got home). Walked around the bazaar, found few attractive tidbits among the rabble, and with a headache the size of Mars bearing down on my temples, headed home for some dark, cold quiet. It was a unpeacable end to a lethargic two days.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

I heart pears, and other fruits too

Bought 12 pears yesterday. Ya pears, as they are labelled, or as I know them, chinese yellow pears. The pears my dad would bring just for me from Taiwan and China, because I was the only one amongst us who loved them more than the oranges and apples strewn around the house (not that we had dustbunnies of fruits, but we've just had years where nothing else was in the refrigerator. And yet, we're all overweight. Hmmm). I remember breaking a saucer after trying to halve a pear. Biting into my first Bartlett and feeling sadly disappointed (I like the crisp crunch of the Ya variety); but falling in love completely with the tart sweetness of the Anjou with it's aroma and grainy mouth feel. I've poached them in wine and in cider, yet a fresh, cold pear still takes the prize.
Other fruits that make me happy, dance for joy happy: white peaches (to die for in their peak, the aroma opens my salivary glands and I devour all I see in my path), bing and queen anne cherries (my favorite farmer's market find in the Northwest when I go to the US for summer), strawberries (wild sweet ones, and even the steroid mutants that don't look like fruit, more like Arnold Schwarzennegar-styled red pillows. Those I'd rather eat dipped in chocolate to avoid looking at all their muscles.), fresh blueberries, and sweet oranges. Lately, I've bought several Taiwan oranges in the Salcedo market and they've been wonderfully sweet. Eat them standing up watching traffic without the lights on, and you'd think you were anywhere but Manila.
That's not to say I avoid local fruits. Seasonally, I'm a sucker for the best mangos, duhats (with a sprinkling of salt to make them squishy), siniguelas (spelling? ditto on salt especially when not so ripe), lanzones, and our native bananas (who in their right mind wants to eat those cardboard clone bananas from some multi-national farm company without any flavor when we have so many good fruits around). Pineapples (with salt), papaya (with a squish of calamansi), and Calamansi of course. Dayap and Dalandan make our lives a whole lot better too.
Living in China, I found a plethora (love that word, Plethora, pllllethorrrra) of no-English-names fruit. A mutant orange that I finally found out was the kumquat (edible skin, not so edible innards, but just a nice combination of sweet and sour), some kind of berry with red spokes clustered around the seeds. Really good and haven't seen them anywhere else. And lychees, luckily they're known outside Asia too. But I found out that they raise too much heat in the body, that whole yin/yang thing. So I can only eat a few of those tasty morsels.
Huh, I just met someone who's never heard of papaya. Deprived soul!

Is it Friday yet? Is it? Is it?

Wandering down Ayala Avenue or nearabouts, I was musing on the movement of the days through the week. It's a good way to waste time while fruitlessly flagging down taxis in a drizzle (what's up with the weather? Rain? in January???). So, everyone agrees that Mondays are a drag on the psyche, Tuesdays and Wednesdays seem to be middle of the week days that are just there, plonked. By Thursday though, all thoughts flit to the weekend, and like the annoying child in a long car trip, we start thinking of ways to waste our weekends, harassing our ulcers with shindigs and preparations. Fellow procrastinators would also agree that by late Wednesday, all sorts of mini-anxiety attacks start to creep up over the petty things pushed off from Monday to Tuesday and now it's the end of Wednesday without anything to show for it.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

5:33 and counting

While waiting for the end of the day, looking out the window panes and shirking from any thought of going out into the open while it's drizzling, reading through blogs about everything I can find, and avoiding edible temptation over by the office pantry, I realize that it's time to update this blog. Golly gee, 13 days since my last post or two. Time flies, it'll be christmas again before I realize it.

Financially speaking, January is the biggest bummer. I've get a debt load to sink the Titanic, yet I'm smiling through it. Will not allow MONEY pull me down. But I must rethink my plans. Hong Kong and Macau will probably be scuttled. An offer to join friends for an authentic Songkran trip to Chiang Mai will probably not work out either. And if the work trip to Montreal doesn't get sponsorship money, then I'm down to Mongolia. And I'm invested in Tubbataha, though I suppose if I had to, I'd probably step back from that just to save money for Mongolia.

I'm also going to depend on the family car a lot more, to save on transportation expenses. Fall back as cabs cost cash. And avoiding eating out is a good thing. The occasional food trip isn't a bad thing, simply a more concerted effort towards finding options. For example, a free day at the CCP this Sunday, a tip care of fellow blogger and streetwalker Carlos Celdran, will be a better day option than wasting time and brain cells in the mall or watching insipid films (Cheaper by the Dozen 2, or Underworld. Straight to dvd for both of you!).

But speaking of films, I was glad to see another post in the blogosphere that Brokeback Mountain will be opening soon. After some detective work, I've texted friends to join me in mid-February for a movie night. I'm looking forward to seeing the film. Would like to find the short story, but it's not on any of the published short story collections of Annie Proux available in local bookstores. If anyone has a copy, let me know.

Reaching through the virtual void, I've also made contact with fellow poker wannabees, and should have an actual poker night one day. Looking forward to that. Will probably loose my shirt. Am too cautious a gambler to make the bold moves needed to win big pots. Watching the game on cable, I find myself thinking how ruthless the winners are, something I'm not. I'd just enjoy meeting people, eating bad food, drinking some wine while losing all my money.

I have hazelnuts! From another blog, plans are afoot to make homemade Nutella. Wonder if that's a good saleable item? Nah, it's too easy to get the commercial version in the markets.

Cable is evil. I haven't opened any of my new books since the cable was installed. All I end up doing is turning on the tv and watching people do silly things. And thinking of all the unhealthy things I'd like to eat while watching the adolescent shenanigans. There does seem to be a correlation with the amount of time I don't get to spend cleaning to the hours lazying on the sofa watching telly. I'm turning into a slob! Vicious image indeed.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

What I do for a living - 1

I've tried to keep this blog free from work related information since I'm surrounded by the stuff all the time. But in the interest of helping anyone out there who might need to access the information, I'm going to occasionally put up a notice or two about some US school related information.

The Fund for American Studies in partnership with the University of Hong Kong and Georgetown University created the Asia Institute for Political Economy in 2002, as a platform for academic and cross-cultural exchange. It aims to be the premier Asian political economy program, and directs a cohort of 60 scholars from all over the world on the issues affecting the region's dynamic structure. This year's program will be held from July 28 to August 19 in Hong Kong. The deadline for applications (online) is March 15, 2006. Visit www.tfasinternational.org for details, applications, and funding related matters.

The amazing Christmas and New Year Diet

6:20 a.m., January 10. I walk into the gym, half awake after rousing myself up from a deep sleep, dreaming of dried thigh (too strange to put in a semi-public forum like this, so believe me when I say it was one of the strangest dreams I've had in awhile, and I'm on the top weird dreamers of this century), too groggy to think beyond putting on my gym clothes and staggering downstairs to the waiting car.

I fiddle with the locker, not noticing the lock's not really locking in place, put on my monitor, but decide instead to do a last minute weigh-in before sweating out my built-up toxins. I fiddle with the scale, moving it between the marks. It's too heavy. Move it lower, still too heavy. Move it back two pounds lower and viola, a perfect balance. OMG, I lost weight! Wow. And it doesn't sink in until after lunch.

What a great way to keep going on the path of health. I just wish I didn't have to spend two hours exercising each day and avoiding all the good things in life: chocolate, ice cream, and more chocolate. And a big bowl of fried rice with taba ng talangka (crabfat).

Pike Market Peonies

Pike Market Peonies